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Valentina Iricibar
Writer

On the aftermath of the Senate abortion vote

August 9, 2018

NB: Hola lectores, estoy escribiendo esto junta a otro artículo que tengo que publicar hoy para el Buenos Aires Times y con muy poco sueño encima así que desde ya les pido perdón si no llego a traducir esto. Espero poder hacerlo pronto pero quise escribirlo en inglés para que haya algo así en ese idioma. Fuerza, hermanxs.

 

Last night, I joined thousands of people that congregated around the Argentine Congress to show support for the abortion bill that was eventually rejected by the Senate. I've written about the feeling of sorority in feminist marches here in Argentina but not about abortion specifically (although I have published articles elsewhere about it). Here are some sleep-deprived thoughts after a long day of writing, watching the debate in the Senate and standing in the streets singing protest chants.

 

To say it was cold and wet is an understatement. The media tends to refer to "adverse weather" but that doesn't convey that the avenues flanking the Congress acted as a funnel that brought powerful gusts of icy air and water, even with so many people huddled together. I thanked the stars for having given into my inner grandma earlier and opted for thermal underwear. My camera isn't switching on properly after the constant assault of rain and I hadn't even realised until I got inside that my gloves were soaking: my hands had still felt comparably warmer. When my partner and I left, we could have sworn that the temperature had risen just five blocks away, even though we were walking alone.

 

Despite truly horrendous weather, they were all there. The beautiful, outspoken protesters that have been at every rally since 2015 alongside a new influx of young activists that have brought hope this year with their green scarves and bright eyes. The defiant posters and artistic expressions at every turn, the dancing and singing, the general feeling of unity and righteous rebellion.

 

It sounds like I'm trying to turn the rally into Woodstock but there are few times when one feels like a part of something so much bigger, like standing in front of a wonder of nature: you may be anonymous, but it doesn't matter. You are a part of something massive that is amazing to behold and your presence is important nonetheless.

 

 

That's the thing about the abortion debate in Argentina. It hasn't been much of a debate in many ways: it's been a galvanising force that has taken the country by storm. The taboo has been smashed, with people's favourit actors, celebrities coming forward, raising awareness in a way that reminds me of the AIDs crisis in the 1980s. Suddenly even a senior senator is telling the world that his partner went through an abortion. Despite the fact that most of the conversation has revolved around cis women, I can't help but feel hopeful.

 

As with any force, there is an opposing one, with the anti-rights part of the country has come to the fore in a startling but ultimately unsurprising manner. The "debate" has been anything but enlightening. As for those that carry blue scarves: I know I should, but I don't feel anger.  It might just be exhaustion but right now I think the majority just don't really realise the true extent of their enforcing their beliefs on others and I mean that in the least condescending way possible. The focus is so much on "saving lives" (we'll leave that for another time) that perhaps there isn't much understanding of the lives being condemned by the prohibition of abortions. By denying people with gestation capacity (not just women) the access to safe abortions, you are condemning them to scams, high risks of infection and death.

 

Hopefully we can start differentiating beliefs (which are utterly yours to have) from criminalisation: adultery and divorce were decriminalised (the latter with the same resistance in Argentina) and neither were made obligatory for those who believed those things are wrong. I know it will sting many morally, but the people who are so against it would be the least affected by the legalisation of abortion.

 

After Brexit and other political votes that went awry, I think I lost faith in politics and big voting instances in general and felt trepidation with all the #SeraLey hashtags because I didn't dare to be so optimistic. However, this time I can be involved, surrounded by a whole commnity. A community of activists, citizens and voters. I think that's why I'm not devastated: next year is a presidential election and the abortion bill will be presented every year until it passes. On public transport, at least downtown, I am surrounded by green scarves.  And I will be there next time. We all will.

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