By Verónica Dalto
Buenos Aires, Dec 30 (EFE).- It has been a year since Argentina changed the law to allow women to access abortion on demand in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy, a progressive step that eased anxiety for many despite ongoing judicial hurdles but one that has yet to be applied equally across the nation.
The law came into effect on January 24, 2021, meaning women could access a legal and free abortion in the first three and half months of pregnancy without having to provide justification.
Previously, women in Argentina could only access abortion in the case of rape or when then the pregnancy pose a health risk.
“This year was intense,” Valeria Isla, director of the national sexual and reproductive health program, which is affiliated with the health ministry, told Efe.
Isla spent 2021 building the public policy, training teams, editing protocols and educating political authorities about the new law.
According to the health ministry, 32,758 legal abortions were carried out up until 30 November this year.
The number of hospitals and medical centers offering the procedure grew from 903 to 1,243 since December last year. The goal is to have that number increase to 5,500 by 2022.
The change of law put Argentina at the Latin American forefront in terms of abortion. Prior to Argentina, only Cuba, Guyana and Uruguay had legalized abortion on demand.
“The main thing is that it was a total shift in paradigm,” Estefanía Cioffi, a doctor and member of a leading network of pro-choice healthcare professionals, told Efe, adding that it gave autonomy to the women seeking an abortion.
She said it helped women feel more secure and less stigmatized.
Although the law was rolled out to corners of the country where even limited abortion was unavailable before, there remains a disparity when it comes to accessing the procedure.
“Inequality is a big problem,” Isla said, listing the provinces of Corrientes, in the north, San Juan, in the northwest and neighboring Santiago del Estero and Chaco in north-central Argentina as some of the areas lagging behind.
Anti-abortion activist groups filed 36 legal challenges against the new abortion law since it was approved, of which 24 were thrown out, four were archived and 11 remain active.
“The majority of challenges were dismissed, which shows the law is robust but it does create instability for the health system and health professionals, it has a negative effect,” Isla added. EFE