Women in Argentina are prevented from making independent decisions about their health and lives in the area of reproduction. Women face multiple barriers in their access to contraception, including lack of information, inaccurate and incomplete information, domestic and sexual violence, and economic restraints that the government is not adequately addressing. One of the safest and most effective forms of contraceptiontubal ligationis subject to discriminatory restrictions, resulting in its arbitrary denial. As a result of these restrictions, many women are forced to choose between an unwanted pregnancy and birth that might further impoverish their families or put their health at risk, or an unsafe abortion.
In Argentina, unsafe abortion has constituted the leading cause of maternal mortality for decades. Abortion is illegal in all circumstances, although the law waives the punishment in cases where the pregnant womans life or health is in danger, or where the pregnancy results from the rape of a mentally disabled woman. In reality, access to a legally permitted and therefore safer abortion is almost nonexistent, and many women with unwanted pregnancies or health problems seek abortions through unsafe clinics or induce their own abortions by methods that gravely jeopardize their health and lives.
Doctors feel obligated to report women with induced abortions to the authorities, creating an intimidating situation that deters women from seeking the care they need. Despite international obligations to provide humane post-abortion care in public hospitals, women receive inhumane and sometimes grossly inadequate treatment when they arrive at public hospitals with an incomplete abortion or other complications due to an unsafe abortion. While a guide on post-abortion care announced by the national health ministry in May 2005, if fully implemented, could address most of these issues, it does not carry the force of law and may not overcome persistent fear and resistance among service providers in this area.
If Argentina is to fulfill its international obligations on womens human rights, reform is urgently needed to ensure womens access to safe and legal abortion and to guarantee access to contraceptives and related information. For all women, it is a question of equality. For some, it is a question of life or death.