21 November 2007

The future of the abortion issue in Santa Fe

Abortion is illegal in Argentina, and due to a clear intrusion of religious belief in the Constitution of 1994, it cannot be made fully legal under any circumstances without causing a flood of judicial injunctions, unless you change the Constitution itself. But at least you can start by not treating women who abort like murderers.

This hot potato was grabbed by Miguel Ángel Cappiello, currently the Secretary of Public Health of Rosario and soon to become Minister of Health of Santa Fe, yesterday. Cappiello publicly said that he thought abortion should be decriminalized and that, for starters, women who go to public hospitals to be treated by complications of induced abortions will never again be denounced to the police. The law is unclear in this respect, since although abortion is illegal, the physician who deals with it has the right and the obligation to keep the professional secret. The physicians surveyed support Cappiello.

The platitudes of those who claim to be "on the side of life" started right away, of course. It seems as if Cappiello had suggested that mothers should be rewarded for ripping their babies apart or something like that. Unfortunately, the most influential members of the medical and legal establishments tend to be fanatically Catholic wealthy old men who have never seen or spoken to a poor woman forced to raise a child she didn't want, so they feel perfectly fine speaking of the embryo's "right to life" as if this abstract concept superseded any other consideration, and worse.

The minister-to-be is sure to apply the same measures in the province that the Socialist administrations in Rosario have been applying for years regarding contraception and planned parenthood, so abortions should decrease. Santa Fe has the means to reduce unwanted pregnancies, including an appallingly high rate of teenage pregnancies, but the government has done nothing serious about those. Although the current lame-duck governor Jorge Obeid is a left-wing Peronist (one who had ties with extreme leftist Peronists in the 1970s), his power is based on the establishment of Santa Fe City: the reactionary rich Catholics who've been really in charge since the 16th century. Current Health Minister Silvia Simoncini is just a deputy of those higher powers (and an awfully incompetent minister, too). They're going away on December 10. Good riddance!

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