IACHR hearing on abortion: Legalization is a human rights imperative

More than half a million women undergo clandestine abortions every year in Argentina and since 1983, more than 3,000 women have paid for the criminalization of abortion with their lives.

joint statement


While the legalization of abortion is debated in the Argentine Congress, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) held a public hearing on sexual and reproductive rights in the country, with representatives of the state and human rights organizations. The commissioners present stressed that Argentina must ensure full and effective access to abortions that are already legal under the current criminal code, while also incorporating the international standards and instruments ratified by the country into our legislation.

“The standards are clear: women have the right to autonomy to decide how they use their bodies, and the state has to ensure those rights, in particular for children and young persons,” IACHR president Margarette May Macaulay said, adding that the executive branch must clearly communicate Argentina’s international obligations to members of Congress.

At the hearing, the organizations that had requested it – Amnesty International Argentina (AIAR), Catholics for the Right to Decide (CDD), the Center for Legal and Social Studies (CELS) and the Latin American Team for Justice and Gender (ELA) – detailed the obstacles in the way of legal abortions and stressed the need to legalize voluntary terminations of pregnancy to guarantee the rights of women, transgender persons, girls and adolescents.

Today, more than half of the country’s provinces have no regulations in place that ensure the effective exercise of the right to legally terminate a pregnancy, foreseen when the pregnancy poses a threat to the woman’s health or in cases of rape. This means that in one jurisdiction a pregnant woman may be able to access a legal abortion, while in another this right may be denied, pushing her toward clandestine conditions and criminalization.

More than half a million women undergo clandestine abortions every year in the country and since 1983, more than 3,000 women have paid for the criminalization of abortion with their lives. The lack of access to sexual and reproductive healthcare services, including legal abortion, is a factor that exposes women to becoming victims of institutional violence, which is violence exercised or tolerated by the state. Despite these facts, Argentina has insisted on adopting repressive policies concerning reproductive rights: reforming the law penalizing abortion is a human rights imperative.

Many of the arguments utilized against the legalization of abortion in the Chamber of Deputies (Argentina’s lower house of Congress) make spurious claims regarding international human rights law. For this reason, the organizations mentioned previously asked that the IACHR orient the legislative debate in Argentina and reinforce international standards regarding the right of people with the capacity to gestate to sexual and reproductive health.

Despite the fact that the World Health Organization recommends that medication be used to terminate pregnancies through week 12, in Argentina mifepristone is not sold and misoprostol is only authorized for gastric treatments, with no recognition of its obstetrical uses. We therefore request that the IACHR relay to the state the need to guarantee access to these essential medicines, as part of a coherent public health policy.

Lastly, the IACHR commissioners and its executive secretary highlighted the importance of Argentina’s legislative debate for the entire region of Latin America.

The public hearing can be viewed here (in the original language spoken by each participant).

Amnistía Internacional Argentina (AIAR)
Católicas por el Derecho a Decidir (CDD)
Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS)
Equipo Latinoamericano de Justicia y Género (ELA)