Libertarian presidential candidate Javier Milei, who won the primary elections with 30% of the vote, says he is against Argentina’s abortion law and, if elected president, would launch a referendum for residents to decide whether to keep it or not.
Milei said this during an interview with journalist Alejandro Fantino for the streaming channel Neura Media, where he also talked about his main government proposals and how he felt after his unexpected win.
In the interview, he said that anyone who supports abortion rights are “people brainwashed by a homicidal policy” and asked “how can it be possible that killing another human being is an earned right?”
“I am against [abortion law] because it goes against the right to life,” Milei said, after saying that defense of life is one of liberalism’s center points.
The libertarian economist said he would do a referendum to see “whether Argentines believe in the homicide of a helpless human being who is in their mother’s womb,” and, if the result was against the law, he would eliminate it.
“Life starts at the moment of fertilization. Three weeks after that, your mother decides to kill you because you are not alive yet. How come? You were in an evolving state of life,” Milei exemplified.
How abortion was legalized
Abortion was legalized by the Argentine Congress in December 2020. National law 27.610 made the practice legal in the entire country for pregnancies of up to 14 weeks, establishing that it was free and state-provided.
For pregnancies over 14 weeks, abortions are allowed only if they were the result of sexual abuse, or pose a health risk for either the fetus or the pregnant person’s life.
Minors under 16 are required to sign a document that states they are giving full consent to the procedure. Those under 13 will also need to be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.
The abortion law also allows for doctors to reject performing the procedure for their moral beliefs if they are registered as conscientious objector, but they must refer the patient to another doctor who will perform the abortion.
The law established several changes on the 1921 Penal Code, which, for almost 100 years, stated that abortion was banned except in cases where the pregnancy was a result of sexual abuse or posed a health risk for the fetus or the pregnant person’s life.
Legal and constitutional restrictions may mean that the 2020 abortion law could not be put to referendum, according to legal experts.
The Constitution and Argentina’s law 25,432 on referendums do not explicitly limit the topics that can be put to a popular vote. However, article 39 of the constitution states that matters of criminal law, a category that includes the abortion law, are not open to “popular initiatives” — a mechanism whereby citizens put forward bills.
Some experts argue that the restrictions that apply to popular initiatives also apply to referendums, according to Diego Morales, head of the legal team at human rights nonprofit, the Center for Legal and Social Studies (CELS, by its Spanish acronym).
Clarification: This article previously stated that the Constitution does not allow matters of criminal law to be put to referendum. The section on referendums has been amended to clarify the fact that this is a legal interpretation rather than a statement in the Constitution itself.