Last June, Argentinian president Mauricio Macri, who was elected in 2015, declared that he defends life from conception to natural death. This statement gives hope to many of us Argentinians for the defense of the unborn. This statement also provides us with a good opportunity to see what role the position of a President may play on national legislation and on jurisprudential developments. For this reason, I want to offer an overview of the positions held, on this same controversial matter, by previous Argentinian presidents: we will see how our legislation on abortion evolved during their presidency in the last 20 years.
I will first consider Carlos Menem. It was during his presidency (in 1998) that the ‘Day of the Unborn Children’ was established, as a manifestation of his opposition to abortion. No significant advances towards abortion were made during this time.
Néstor Kirchner, who held the presidency until 2007, was equally open about his opposition to abortion. However, when the Minister of Health suggested decriminalizing abortion, he also maintained that there was room for “freedom of conscience”.
The wife of the former president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, was later elected and held the presidency till 2015, having been reelected in 2011. She was also clear on her views against abortion. As a consequence, and since the majority of the legislators were equally prolife, the decriminalization of abortion did not succeed. When the Criminal Law Commission of the Deputies’ Chamber gathered to start a debate on the possibility of decriminalizing the practice, they knew very well that they did not enjoy the president’s approval. They could not reach the quorum at the time, and the initiative failed.
Nonetheless, it was during these years that the courts of our country started to adopt “innovative” interpretations of the law, that expanded the chance of having an abortion “in cases of rape”. Finally, as I mentioned in a previous blog (https://iycoalition.org/abortion-legislated-argentinian-criminal-code/), in 2012, the Supreme Court of Justice stated that any woman who is a victim of rape has a right to abortion, and she should not encounter any obstacles to obtain it. The Supreme Court also adjured all the provinces to take all the necessary legal measures to ensure enjoyment of this right. Thus, it violated the federal, republican system of our country, for this power that rests in the Legislature.
As a result, numerous provinces of our country started issuing Protocols on “non-punishable abortions”, as well as “instructions” directed to rape victims. The Minister of Health even issued (still under the presidency of Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner), a National Protocol on “non-punishable abortions”. The president did nothing.
These “Protocols” not only grant a right to abort to any victim of rape, but they made the exception become the rule.
Interestingly enough, while the governor of Buenos Aires, Daniel Scioli, did not exercise his veto powers over these regulations, Mauricio Macri, at that time serving as (Mayor?) of the City of Buenos Aires, vetoed them. Daniel Scioli was a candidate for the same party of Cristina Kirchner, of whom I have talked earlier. He was also known as an opponent of abortion… He eventually lost the presidential elections to Macri.
Now, getting back to our current president, while he did good things in the City of Buenos Aires, he was also the one to announce the first legal abortion to take place in the City. It had to be performed on the basis of a resolution passed by the Legislature of the City of Buenos Aires, whose laws are a little narrower than the requirements established by the Supreme Court of Justice in the above mentioned decision. Fortunately this abortion was suspended, due to an appeal of a prolife organization.
I should point out that even though presidents’ views are not determinative on either legislation or jurisprudence, they do play a role. This is true, at least, with reference to abortion.
The president represents each one of us. Therefore, his declaration not only affects the government’s agenda, but also invites the people to have a clear conscience: to know what their country stands for.