BUENOS AIRES – Hundreds of students occupied about 10 schools in Buenos Aires to call for the approval of a bill seeking to decriminalize abortion and for allowing minors to exercise their right to have an abortion without the consent of their parents.
“We want legal, safe and free abortion, where it’s we who decide. Neither our parents nor anyone else would have the last word, just we ourselves,” Juana Garay, one of the teenagers who took over the Colegio Nacional de Buenos Aires school, told EFE.
About 50 students decided on Monday in an assembly to spend the night at the entrance of the school, one of the city’s most prestigious, and more joined them as the hours passed.
The students say they will maintain the takeover of the 10 schools until Wednesday, when they will take the protest to the vicinity of Congress to closely follow the debate on the abortion bill in the Chamber of Deputies.
A document prepared for the public by the Economia Femini(s)ta organization said that, at present, 119 lawmakers are against the bill and 116 support it, while 20 are undecided.
According to Amnesty International, abortion is the main cause of maternal deaths in 17 of Argentina’s 24 provinces. Meanwhile, Unicef says that 3,000 babies are born each year to girls ages 10-14 and feminist organizations say that 500,000 clandestine abortions are performed each year in the country.
Garay said that this all means that abortions “are going to continue to be performed” and so the important thing is “for the state to accept its responsibility and the historic moment at which it finds itself.”
The protesting students are also demanding the “immediate” preparation of a protocol against machista violence in schools.
Another student, Abril Manchini, participating in the takeover of the Rogelio Yrurtia School of Fine Arts, told EFE that because some religious parents will not support abortion, “those girls either have to leave school, because the school is also not ready to have a pregnant girl taking classes, or they have to have clandestine abortions, which is a terrible thing.”
Abortion has been a crime in Argentina since 1921, although it is considered not to be punishable if required to avoid danger to the mother’s health or if the pregnancy occurs due to rape. The new bill stipulates that any female can voluntarily end her pregnancy any time within the first 14 weeks of gestation.