Ending the Criminalization of Abortion Is Urgent

A new political opportunity is presenting itself in the long struggle for the right to voluntary abortion, for the sake of health, equality and dignity. We urge the National Congress to do its share in expanding the sexual rights of millions of persons and make history.

During the 2018 debate on legalization of abortion in the Congress, there was frequent mention of the low application of the criminal law to prosecute abortion cases. There was even talk of the existence of a social decriminalization. However, if we analyze the phenomenon in its complexity, the numbers show significant criminalization.

Since 2012, we have recorded 73 cases of women prosecuted for abortions or other obstetric events, in the national media. The 26 abortions and 47 obstetric events surveyed depict a situation of women who overwhelming come from vulnerable social sectors: they do not have paid work, they have a low level of formal education and live in precarious housing conditions. These are women who needed the care of the State and that their rights be guaranteed. However, the criminal policy that supports the persecution of abortions has been and still is oriented towards poor women.

Most of the women – we did not find cases of trans men or criminalized non-binary people – are under the age of 30 and many of them have one or more children. When we refer to obstetric events, we refer to cases such as Belén’s: situations of unexpected or complicated. In 50% of the abortion cases studied and in more than 75% of obstetric events, the women were detained.

This is the story of “Laura”, one of the 73 women investigated or prosecuted over their reproductive rights who made the headlines between 2012 and 2020 in Argentine media.

The majority of these women were subjected to criminal investigations that did not respect due process. Many of the cases were reported by health personnel, in violation of the guarantee of confidentiality in medical care, and they were mistreated during hospitalization, which amounts to acts of torture. Many of them had their homes illegally searched by police, were subjected to forced interrogations, were obligated to testify against themselves and had no or poor legal advice. Many times the request of their relatives for help to save the lives of these women was used as a complaint by the authorities to initiate criminal investigations. These are processes of crossed class and gender prejudices, in which the authorities did not guarantee fair or dignified treatment, but rather demonstrated a singular cruelty.

This video is based on a true story, the story of Cynthia. Criminalized abortion for her amounted to obstetric, media and institutional violence. For being a woman.

Punishment is not limited to the criminal charges, the days spent handcuffed to hospital beds, or to the real threat of ending up in jail for seeking health care. The criminalization is part of a broader punishment system that involves the media, health workers, police officers on duty at health centers and police stations, legal staff and agents of the prison service. Many of these women end up making headlines because their names were “leaked” to the press as an additional social punishment that, with stigmatizing coverage, affects their lives, their children, their families and relationships.

Penalizing abortion is equivalent to claiming control over the body and the reproductive capacity of women. There is complete disregard towards confidentiality and the information about these women, their health and their treatments are aired carelessly. They are judged as if they had had the opportunity to make free and autonomous decisions, they are stigmatized as murderers, and in order to achieve this characterization, the context of vulnerability in which they live are made invisible. Some of these women said they had been raped and out of ignorance or fear, they hadn’t agreed to a legal termination of their pregnancy.

“Sandra” did not know she was pregnant. She lived in precarious conditions with her children. They had no bathroom. She had a miscarriage 5 months into her pregnancy and was imprisoned for homicide. She died in detention.

The risk of being criminally prosecuted affects all people who participate in an abortion. But it only imprisons and punishes those who lack the symbolic or material tools to access a safe abortion, within or outside the health system.

Legalizing pregnancy term-based abortion access is urgent. We cannot keep waiting, at the mercy of health workers, police, prosecutors and judges’ discretion. The cost of this illegality is borne by the thousands of women, trans men and non-binary people of different ages, children, adolescents and adults, who are pushed into hiding and uncertainty about their health and freedom. The poorer they are, the more exposed they are to unsafe abortions.

It is urgent that Congress debate and approve a project to legalize the voluntary interruption of pregnancy. What we need right now are more rights and fewer sentences.

National Campaign for the Right to Legal, Safe and Free Abortion (Campaña Nacional por el Derecho al Aborto Legal, Seguro y Gratuito)




Since November 2019, CELS coordinates an investigation on the criminalization of abortion and other obstetric events together with the National Campaign for the Right to Legal, Safe and Free Abortion, the San Martín University Center (CUSAM) and the researchers Gloria Orrego-Hoyos, María Lina Carrera and Natalia Saralegui. The investigation has the support of the Asociación de Pensamiento Penal and the National Committee for the Prevention of Torture.

Asociación de Pensamiento Penal
Abofem Argentina
Abofem/ Asamblea 8M Fiske
APDH Bariloche
APDH Mendoza
APDH Regional Catamarca
APDH Regional Catamarca
APDH Regional NO del Chubut
APDH Tres Arroyos
Asamblea Permanente por los derechos humanos
Asociación Argentina de Educadoras/es Sexuales
Asociación Ciudadana por los derechos humanos
Asociación de Profesionales de Servicio Social
ATE Nacional
ATE CDP Entre Ríos
Bachillerato Popular Sol del Sur – FENAT CTA-A CAPITAL
Campaña Federal por la separación Estado/ Iglesia
Campaña Nacional contra las violencias hacia las mujeres y disidencias
Campaña Nacional por el Derecho al Aborto Legal, Seguro y Gratuito Regional Olavarría
Campaña Nacional por el Derecho al ALSyG Chivilcoy
Campaña Regional Aborto Legal, Seguro y Gratuito
Católicas por el Derecho a Decidir Argentina
Centro de Edtudiantes de la Facultad de Matemática, Astronomía, Física y Computación de la UNC (CEIMAF)
Centro de Estudiantes de la Facultad de Ciencias Sociales – UNC
Chanas Socorristas En Red San Nicolás
CIAJ Colectivo de Investigación y Acción Jurídica
Colectiva Andina
Colectiva Bravas- Socorristas La Plata, Bs As
Colectiva de Actrices y Técnicas Platenses por Aborto Legal, Seguro y Gratuito
Colectiva de Antropólogas Feministas
Colectiva de trabajadoras judiciales (PBA)
Colectiva Feminista La Revuelta
Colectiva Feminista Las Azucenas
Colectivo de Abogadxs Populares La Ciega
Colectivo Identidad Marrón
Comisión de Salud Catamarca Instituto Patria
Comisión de Salud Jujuy-Frente Ciudadano por la Salud (NOA)
Comisión de Salud Tucumán Instituto Patria
Consejería en Prevención de Violencia Obstétrica
Contragolpe Secundarios
CTA Autónoma
CTA Atonoma Tucuman- Fenat CTA Tucumán
CTA Autónoma Entre Ríos
Dora te escucha Paraná
E.Po.Ca Estudios Políticos para el Cambio
Ecos de Sororidad, programa radial feminista
El Desborde Educativo
Encuentro de Profesionales contra la Tortura
Equipo de Educación Popular Pañuelos en Rebeldía
Equipo de Investigación en Género y Sexualidades. IISE. UNSJ
Escritoras argentinas
Espacio de trabajadorxs sociales de salud de la CABA
Feministas del Abya Yala
Frente Ciudadano por la Salud del NOA
Fundación Huésped
Fundeps (Fundación para el Desarrollo de Políticas Sustentables)
Grupo Intervencionista Tucumán
Indómites, Agrupación Feminista
Instituto de Género, Derecho y Desarrollo-Insgenar
Instituto de Investigaciones de Estudios de Género. Facultad de Filosofía y Letras.UBA
Instituto de Políticas Públicas LGBT+
Isadora Mujeres en Lucha, Misiones
Junta Interna ATE Promoción Social
Juristas por la Igualdad y los Derechos Humanos San Juan
La Bisagra
La Dignidad
La Hoguera
La Malona colectiva feminista
La Revuelta CABA-GBA (Socorristas en Red)
La Ria Corriente Critico Feminista
La Roja, proyecto colectivo
La Simón Bolívar – Nuestra Patria es América
La Verde Roja y Negra, ATE Educación
La voz de Temis. Podcast
Las Hilando Artivistas Socorristas
Las Hilarias Socorristas en Red
Las Revueltas Socorristas en red
Maestría Poder y Sociedad desde la Problemática de Género. FHyA. UNR
Mala Junta – VAMOS
Mala Junta Poder Feminista – Frente Patria Grande
Maleducadas Kisulelaiñ
Mesa Sindical de Tres Arroyos
MNCI Somos Tierra
Movimiento por la desmanicomialización en Romero (MDR)
Muchachas Peronistas Tucumán
Mutisias Rebeldes Esquel-Trevelin
Ni Una Menos
Ni Una Menos San Juan
Observatorio de Derechos Humanos de la Ciudad
Pañuelos en Rebeldía
Parlamento de las Mujeres de la Legislatura CABA
Partido Social Patagónico
Poiesis, S. C.
Programa de Estudios de Género, Infancia y Juventud, UNSAM
Programa Interdisciplinario de Investigación Acción Feminista
Red de autocuidado feminista
Red de lesbianes travestis trans y no binaries de Necochea
Red de Profesionales de la Salud por el Derecho a Decidir
Red Feminista Sonorense
Secretaría de Géneros CTAA Nacional
Secretaría de Igualdad de Oportunidades y Género CGT RA
Secretaría de Igualdad de Género y Oportunidades CTA de les Trabajadores
Secretaría General de la Federación Universitaria de Córdoba
Socorristas en Red. Feministas que abortamos.
Socorristas Misiones
Socorristas Olavarria
Socorro Peste Rosa Tierra del Fuego
Socorro Rosa Comarca Andina
Socorro Rosa Necochea Quequen
Socorro Rosa Tandil
Socorro Rosa Tres Arroyos
Socorro Rosa Villa Regina
Sororas Fanny Edelman
Tatagua-Colectiva Feminista-Conurbano Sur-PBA-Argentina
Tierra Violeta
Urna Verde
UST Campesina y Territorial
Vamos – Terciarios