There is a lot to unpack in that headline, but what happened was pretty simple: Argentinian politicians rejected a bill that would have legalized abortion, and shortly afterwards, a woman died trying to induce a miscarriage using parsley.
The woman, identified only as “Elizabeth,” is believed to be the first casualty in Argentina’s war on safe and legal abortions, coming just a week after the country’s Senate rejected a bill to legalize abortion up to 14 weeks.
The woman — a mother of two named only as Elizabeth — was taken to a hospital in Buenos Aires on Sunday suffering from septic shock and infection. Though her uterus was removed, medical staffers were unable to save her, Argentine newspaper Clarín reported.
According to estimates, more than 354,000 illegal abortions occur each year in Argentina, resulting in more than 70,000 hospitalizations, the Telesur television network said. Backers of the defeated Pregnancy Voluntary Interruption (IVE) bill hoped the legislation would help reduce the number of associated deaths. The law would have allowed girls as young as 13 to end a pregnancy for any reason within the first 14 weeks and within five days of the mother’s request.
Argentina has banned abortion since the nineteenth century, and the political pressure is still on that side of the fence, but there are some people in the country — including politicians — who support legalizing a woman’s right to choose.
The Network of Health Professionals for the Right to Decide, a group of abortion-rights medical workers, announced Elizabeth’s death in a statement. They asked, “How many women and pregnant people will need to die [before lawmakers agree] that abortion must be legal, safe and free in Argentina?”
Senator Eduardo Aguilar wrote on Twitter: “There might not be a law, but abortions will continue, and if it’s without a law, the woman’s life is at risk.”
The IVE bill failed earlier this month. After a 15-hour debate in the Senate, 38 lawmakers voted against it, versus 31 in favor. Public opinion polls indicated the bill had the support of the majority of Argentines, but this was not enough to sway enough senators.
Elizabeth’s case is also notable because she used parsley, a common household herb, to attempt the illegal, do-it-yourself abortion.
A crime since the late nineteenth century, abortion is the leading cause of maternal mortality in Argentina. Elizabeth’s case was harrowing, though not unfamiliar. In an attempt to induce an abortion, she inserted parsley in her vagina. That led to an infection which, despite the removal of her uterus at the local hospital and two days at two different facilities, led to her death the following day…
That’s a long way of saying this death was preventable. If Argentina had a legal abortion policy, she would almost certainly be alive today. Instead, she’s gone and many more women will unfortunately join her before long thanks to anti-abortion activists who care more about fetuses than the women dying right in front of them.
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