It was just two years ago that the organizers of a stirring women’s movement in Argentina were handed what felt like a bitter loss, their efforts to legalize abortion rejected in the Senate after intense lobbying by the Catholic Church.
This week, after their efforts culminated in a landmark vote to make Argentina the largest Latin American country to legalize abortion, it became clear that the loss was a vital step in further changing the conversation around feminism in their country.
The shift was visible on the street: What started as a series of marches by young women had, over the past few years, started looking like a truly national movement. Older women joined the demonstrations, and men, too. Blue-collar workers joined with professionals in marching, and rural campaigners linked hands with the movement’s urban base.
They came to support a movement that formally began in 2015 in outrage over the killing of women — its name is Ni Una Menos, or not one woman less — and began focusing its message on the toll that underground abortions were taking.
The Times had the gall to compare the pro-abortion movement to protestors of the country’s previous military dictatorship.
But the seeds of its success were planted more than a generation ago, in the campaigns by mothers and grandmothers of the disappeared that helped usher out years of military juntas in Argentina in the 1980s. When abortion rights activists of the past few years waved their signature green handkerchiefs, they were following in the footsteps of those Argentine women, who protested the generals’ abuses by wearing white handkerchiefs.
“Disappeared” has a whole other meaning when it comes to abortion (see for example, “Study Finds 23 Million Females are Missing Due to Sex-Selective Abortion,”) an angle the pro-choice Times scrupulously skipped.
Part of the movement was driven by sex quotas in the Argentina legislature, a fact downplayed.
Women have also gained a critical mass in Congress, able to shape the debate over abortion rights, since a quota law first reserved a third of legislative seats for them in the 1990s, and was later expanded to require parity.
In this latest vote, and victory, legislators framed abortion rights as a matter of social justice and of public health — dozens of women die a year seeking abortions, according to Argentina’s Access to Safe Abortion Network.
(In 2018 this same reporting duo ignored the violence that erupted from the pro-choice mobs after that first failed attempt: “Though Abortion Bill Failed in Argentina, a Movement Took Hold — A Narrow Loss Inspires Women.” The text box assured the paper’s pro-choice readership: “‘Abortion will be legal soon. Very soon,’ one woman said.” The story carried a photo of “An abortion-rights supporter in Buenos Aires on Thursday after a bill to legalize abortion was defeated.” Who was actually throwing a colored smoke bomb.)
As usual on the left, sexual stereotyping is welcome when it reflects well on women.
The kinship they built fighting for greater female presence in the legislature allowed women to break ranks with male political elders and forge a new form of politics that was cooperative, pragmatic and largely devoid of grandstanding.
The reporters let Argentina’s leftist leader Alberto Fernández gush:
“Safe, legal and free abortion is the law,” he said on Twitter. “Today we are a better society.”
Not a single opposing voice made it into the story.