Thursday, 23 May 2024
WorldCecilia Moreau, Argentine representative: “We will never return to clandestine abortion again”

Cecilia Moreau, Argentine representative: “We will never return to clandestine abortion again”

“The threat to repeal the law on voluntary interruption of pregnancy is part of the reactionary advance of the Government of Javier Milei,” underlines deputy Cecilia Moreau, from the opposition coalition Unión por la Patria, in an interview with She believes that the legislative failure of the far-right president’s party, La Libertad Avanza (LLA), which failed to approve the so-called ‘omnibus’ law of fiscal adjustment and privatization of public companies, has generated a new attack against women.

Moreau was a key legislator in the transversal work to approve legal, safe and free abortion. She chaired the General Legislation Commission and led the parliamentary debate in which 738 people spoke, in an unprecedented plurality of voices, through 15 meetings and 130 hours of arguments. On June 14, 2018, the Chamber of Deputies gave the green light to legalization in a debate that lasted all night with a vigil of a million women at the doors, but the Senate stopped the project. Finally, it was approved on December 30, 2020 in both chambers. Moreau had said a few days before in Parliament that at the age of 16 she had to have an abortion. “The contraceptive method failed, I was a girl and I had to make that decision. “I was supported by my mother, who listened to me and accompanied me.” She highlighted that going underground made her afraid “because she knew that she could go to prison.” And that is why she defended: “Women have the right to make decisions.”

Moreau was president of the Chamber of Deputies – the first woman to hold that position in 158 years – until December 7, 2023. Days later she took office again as vice president of the Chamber and deputy until December 2027. During her time in power has received sexist attacks. The political violence – punished by law – that she suffered is an example of the setback against women who dare to expand rights. Two years after facing fear, telling his story and ensuring that other teenagers do not have to go through the same thing, deputy Cristian Ritondo, from the right-wing PRO party, made a circle with the fingers of one hand and inserted another finger into the hole in an obscene and metaphorical gesture of a violation directed at the legislator for managing to adjourn a session in which several laws were being voted on.

In 2022, the committee of experts of the Follow-up Mechanism of the Inter-American Convention to Prevent, Punish and Eradicate Violence against Women expressed concern about violence in the political sphere against Moreau and highlighted that she was a victim of “misogynistic gestures that evoke a rape.” In addition, they repudiated the sexist and xenophobic shouts and insults. The organization determined that it was political violence, which weakened democracy and showed an escalation of attacks on women who held positions in politics. But the warning did not stop the escalation of hate speech: presenter Ángel “Baby” Etchecopar described the legislator as the “cancer of Argentina.”

Is the project to repeal legal abortion a step more in the misogyny of the Milei Government?

The threat to repeal the law on voluntary interruption of pregnancy is part of a reactionary advance in different areas of the Government of Javier Milei, in which the violation of the rights of women, sexual dissidence and childhood (of the sectors most vulnerable) is a common denominator.

How is Milei’s gender denialism expressed?

By denying gender inequality, the wage gap, the glass ceiling, the multiple forms of systematic violence against women’s bodies, the feminization of poverty and implicitly the importance of state actions to reverse each of these situations, it attacks to women.

How is economic adjustment combined with machismo?

Stopping delivering food to popular soup kitchens and picnic areas, which are 95% supported by female workers, is an attack on women, just like classifying pension moratoriums as a “scam.” [programa que permite regularizar la situación de quienes no han cumplido con los requisitos necesarios para acceder a una jubilación] which reach, above all, housewives who have worked all their lives in domestic and care tasks and are the invisible engine of the economy. Or when you attack the Comprehensive Sexual Education Law that allows, among other things, a huge number of girls and boys to find the space to tell about the abuses they suffer.

Isn’t the intention to repeal abortion an isolated project?

The attack against the right to abortion is framed in an ideological conception with manifest intentions of reinforcing patriarchal foundations.

Can Argentina go back so far after being a pioneering country in feminist demonstrations and regulations?

The problem, for them, is that, when society advances in one direction, it is difficult for a government’s intentions (no matter how much damage they may cause) to reverse course.

Is it possible that Milei’s party, La Libertad Avanza, will be able to approve the repeal of abortion?

No. He can’t leave. They do not have the numbers to achieve repeal.

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To what do you attribute the presentation of the abortion repeal project?

It seems to me that it is a distraction maneuver, at a particular moment of political chaos like the one the ruling party is experiencing. They were embarrassed in the House (with the failure of the omnibus bill). The ruling party legislates in a minority and due to incompetence, ignorance of the legislative process, authoritarianism and presidential arrogance, or because of all of this together, it could not build the necessary consensus and decided to take a project that had general approval to the starting block. Nothing like this has ever been seen in history.

Is the failure of La Libertad Avanza paid for by women?

They now try to vent that frustration against the bodies of women and pregnant people. It is not new that we are chosen to pay the price, but that does not mean that it is serious.

What are the risks of this initiative?

They will not be able to repeal abortion, but it is equally serious. In both 2018 and 2020 we demonstrated that the green tide (the number of women and young people in favor of legal abortion) is transversal and has multiple edges: political, social, even religious, which today form a consolidated resistance. Although women can never take our rights for granted.

But the severity increases because we are facing a new attempt to move the limits of public debate towards the extreme right. This mixture of neoliberal-conservative politics seeks to build new meanings around gender issues. It is the drop that pierces the stone. That is why it is important that we do not let our guard down and that we go out to debate as soon as the threat appears.

Does the anti-abortion initiative show the seriousness of the alliance with evangelical and anti-rights sectors in social projects?

Without a doubt. The Milei Government has proven to have very strong alliances with different religious sectors. The problem appears when government is confused with the State and values, dogmas and religious beliefs are allowed to permeate management structures.

The moral and religious positions of the president and the various officials are absolutely respected. But a secular State cannot be managed on the basis of religious assumptions. Public policies have to be formulated through evidence, scientific development and real problems that affect Argentinians.

What would be the scenario if abortion becomes clandestine again?

Clandestine abortion is a public health problem and the cost generated by clandestine abortion in the health system is much higher than that generated by guaranteeing the practice safely. Therefore, we will never return to knitting needles, hangers, parsley (the unhealthy methods that were practiced clandestinely), trauma, death, fear, despair and abandonment.

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