During its 2014 Universal Periodic Review, Argentina committed itself to examining a series of recommendations regarding women’s access to reproductive rights in the country. These included recommendations to take steps to ensure that no woman or girl is subject to criminal sanctions for abortion, enact legislation that would provide women legal access to a range of reproductive health services, and ensure that access to legal abortion is available on equal terms in all regions across the country.
Abortion is illegal in Argentina, except in cases of rape or when the life or health of the woman is at risk. But even in such cases, women and girls are sometimes subject to criminal prosecution for seeking abortions, and often have trouble accessing reproductive services, such as contraception and voluntary sterilization.
In this year’s State of the Union, President Mauricio Macri said that, despite his personal views on the matter, he supported Congress’ inclusion of abortion as an issue to be debated in 2018. Human Rights Watch welcomes this statement and considers it opens the door to a candid, long-overdue debate that could lead Argentina to take steps towards decriminalizing abortion and better protecting the rights of Argentine women and girls.
Key international human rights are at risk when abortion is criminalized, including the rights to life, health, nondiscrimination and equality, privacy, information, not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and to decide the number and spacing of children. Authoritative interpretations of treaties ratified by Argentina have long established that highly restrictive or criminal abortion laws violate the human rights of women and girls. In recent concluding observations, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, for example, has urged states to decriminalize abortion in all cases. In 2016, the CEDAW committee urged Argentina to legalize abortion not only in cases of rape and risk to the life or health of the pregnant woman but also other circumstances such as incest and when there is a risk of severe fetal impairment.
We respectfully urge the government of Argentina to accept the UPR recommendations on this matter and prioritize taking steps to fully implement them during the next UPR cycle.