Milei’s deputies present bill to overturn legalization of abortion

The bill would punish abortion with jail time — but has been panned as a distraction from the omnibus bill’s collapse

Six deputies from Milei’s La Libertad Avanza coalition have presented a bill that would criminalize elective abortion in Argentina, overturning the landmark 2020 Congress decision to legalize the procedure.

Critics have argued that the bill is a political diversion strategy to draw attention away from the failure of Milei’s omnibus bill project. The president’s flagship reform package suffered a shocking defeat on Tuesday, when deputies voted to send the legislation back to congressional commissions, wiping out weeks of fraught negotiations.

It also comes just days before Milei is due to meet with Pope Francis in the Vatican. The Catholic church has long been a powerful opponent to abortion.

Even within Milei’s bloc, support for the project remains unclear. Deputy Lilia Lemoine publicly denied signing the bill on Wednesday. Presidential spokesperson Manuel Adorni said during his morning press conference on Thursday that deputy Rocío Bonacci had presented the bill of her own accord and the government was focusing on more “urgent” matters. 

“It is not part of the president’s agenda, it was not the president’s decision, and it is not being pushed by the legislative power,” he said.

Abortion is currently legal on request in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy, and after that in cases where the pregnancy was a result of rape or when the pregnant person’s life or health is in danger.

The bill filed this week proposes repealing the 2020 abortion law. In its place, practicing an abortion would be punishable by one to four years in jail, rising to six years if the pregnant person dies because of the procedure. 

Those who carry out their own abortions or allow someone else to perform the procedure on them could be sentenced to one to three years in jail, although the judge ruling on the case could decide not to punish.

The mere presentation of the draft legislation does not imply that it will be accepted for debate.

The bill would remove the right to abortion in cases of rape because this “has been systematically interpreted as a justification for the practice,” the bill’s authors wrote. They argue that allowing judges to decide not to prosecute would mean people who become pregnant as a result of rape can end their pregnancies, but the procedure would remain illegal.

Judges would have to consider the pregnant person’s behavior when deciding not to prosecute.

“We believe there is no reason, however dramatic it is, that justifies throwing away an innocent life,” the bill reads.

Abortion would remain legal only in cases of “imminent risk to the life of the mother […] as long as the risk cannot be avoided by other means.”

While Argentina’s current law avoids the word “mother” and refers to “women and people of other gender identities with the capacity to gestate,” the new bill refers only to “mothers” and “women.” Its authors also reject the phrase “voluntary interruption of a pregnancy” (IVE, by its Spanish initials), which they argue is a euphemism.

In the legal arguments accompanying the proposed law, the authors call the current legislation unconstitutional, arguing that life begins at conception. 

Feminist response

The reproductive rights activists of Argentina’s National Campaign for Legal, Safe, and Free abortion panned the bill as a diversionary tactic in a statement Thursday.

“Days after the great political defeat of the Milei government in Congress, a project aimed at  repealing Law 27610 on access to the Voluntary Interruption of Pregnancy has been presented,” they wrote. 

“They want to distract us by coming back to this concluded debate to avoid worrying about what’s urgent: hunger and unemployment,” they added. “We’ve said it once before and we’ll say it again; not one step backwards on our rights.” 

Nina Brugo, a lawyer and co-founder of the National Campaign, told the Herald that she was not surprised by the government’s attacks on the abortion law — but that the new bill’s legal basis displayed “total legal ignorance.” She said that it does not tackle the legal foundations of the current law, which are supported by international treaties on human rights and women’s rights. 

“It’s real stupidity to think that they can erase that law with one article through the stroke of a pen,” she said.

She added that maternal deaths because of clandestine abortion have virtually disappeared and teen pregnancy rates have fallen dramatically since elective abortion was legalized.

Deputy denies signing

The bill’s main signatory is La Libertad Avanza deputy Rocío Bonacci. The co-signatories are fellow LLA deputies Beltrán Benedit, María Fernanda Araujo, Lilia Lemoine, Manuel Quintar, and Oscar Zago.

However, as soon as the bill had been presented, deputy Lilia Lemoine told news website Corta that she had not signed the bill. 

“They put my name on it because I said I would support it, but now was not the right time and they put me on there anyway,” she said. “It’s really damaging.”


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