On August 8, the Argentinean Parliament rejected a law that would have allowed abortions in the country, which are penalized with prison until today. Why this ongoing fight is so important to me and the women in my country
Vergangenen Mittwoch, den 8. August, lehnte das argentinische Parlament mit 38 zu 31 Stimmen ein Gesetz zur Legalisierung von Abtreibungen ab. Das Ergebnis zeigt ein gespaltenes Land: der konservative Norden gegen die progressiven Kräfte in Buenos Aires; die Bischöfe, angeleitet von Papst Franziskus, für den sie “Leben und Gerechtigkeit” verteidigen sollten, gegen die meist jungen Frauen, die mit dem Symbol des grünen Kopftuchs für ein Recht auf Abtreibung kämpfen. Unsere Autorin Pauli wurde 1995 im argentinischen Mendoza geboren und lebt seit einem Jahr in Berlin. Hier schreibt sie ihre persönliche Geschichte, über Sexualaufklärung und Abtreibung in Argentinien, und warum sie nicht aufhört zu kämpfen.
Since I started having sex I was in fear. Many fears. Fear of having wrongly chosen my sexual partner, of being assaulted or violated. Fear that the condom wouldn’t function, fear of getting infected by a sexually transmitted disease. But always, the biggest fear was getting pregnant. It was the most probable risk and, as a life sentence, also the hardest. A fear that did not end with the sexual encounter but persisted throughout the month – until I eventually menstruated. I am one of those women with a changing period, and the days of lateness have always been a torment.
Since I started having sex, I spent hours reading and investigating how I could, if necessary, induce an abortion with natural things … sage, parsley, rosemary, oregano … that I had at home. It was a synonym of safety and discretion in my mind. I had my plants in the garden, just in case I would need to induce an abortion.
On more than one occasion, when my menstruation was a couple of days late, I took sage infusions. They mainly worked as a painkiller for my anxiety until I menstruated. Sometimes, I also thought (and hoped) that the plant would advance my delayed menstruation to bring me peace. My sexual partners never knew about my suffering, only my best friend. We used to calm down each other by remembering ourselves: If we did everything right, everything would be fine.
If there is pleasure in female sex, it is related to shame
Sex education in Argentina means an outward instructor comes to school and explains the penis and vulva/vagina. She shows pictures and tells you how important it is to use a condom when having sex. But she doesn’t explain what sex is in an integral way. A new law about sexual education obliges schools to treat sex in depth, comprising sexuality, gender, and care. It even advises kindergartens not to condition the children’s gender by their toys, i.e. by giving cooking toys to girls and repairing toys for boys. However, the society does not seem to be ready to implement this new law – yet.
In Argentinean homes, sex is a taboo and female sexuality is not linked to pleasure. If there is pleasure it is linked to shame. Girls keep their sexual life secret to their families and, in many cases, also to their friends. As for sexual exploration and education, women in Argentina are very alone and vulnerable. Vulnerable to make mistakes because they do not know how to have safe sex, vulnerable to be pushed to have sex without protection, and vulnerable as a consequence of being in high risk to get pregnant or infected.
Abortions are illegal and penalized, as said in article 88 of our Penal Code: “The woman who causes her own abortion or consents to someone else causing it will be punished with imprisonment of one to four years. The attempt of the woman is not punishable.” (translation by the author)
Thus, the illegality of abortions is a sentence of torture for women. Under these conditions, many women decide for clandestine abortions with what they have on their hands: from putting parsley in their uterus, what stimulates contractions as a result of a intoxication, using clothes hangers to take out the fetus, to the most creative and desperate ways, always hurting themselves and putting their lives at risk. And always under the risk of complications that require medical interventions, and, if they stay alive, being caught and sent to jail.
My solution was not to practice sex till I felt grown up enough to take all the risks
I started studying Education at the National University of Córdoba at the Faculty of Philosophy. There I saw signs which said “YOU ARE NOT ALONE”. It was about the “Lifeguards on Net”, a group of female activists who offer support and restraint to those who needed an abortion.
I remember the way I felt that day when I read that poster for the first time. Until then, the plants in my garden had been my companions, those that would keep me safe. Now, finally, there were humans. I felt accompanied, welcomed in a web.
Until then, nobody had ever told me about abortions, even less so about safe ones. I hadn’t seen anything but morbid pictures in biology class when I was 13 years old. There was the golden rule “always with a condom” but I actually never knew how well they worked. So my solution was not to practice sex until I was 19 years old and felt grown-up enough to take all the risks. Then, in university, I read the word Misoprostol for the first time, and I finally knew what a safe abortion meant.
Today, for me, the day I discovered the “YOU ARE NOT ALONE” sticker was a very important day. It was the day I started to become a feminist, a part of the movement Ni una menos (No Woman less). I realized that I easily could have been one of those intoxicated kids suffering on a stretcher in the emergency room, for not having information, for not having someone to talk to. Dying, literally, of shame, in solitude. Finally, my privileged conditions, my middle-class family with computer and internet access, and then the access to university education, saved me from the stretcher.
The rejection of the new abortion law means that more women will die because of unsafe abortions. Because of being afraid, of not having information, money, contention, and feeling judged.
In spite of the unsuccessful law project, the feminist movements are still flourishing and will not stop organizing, as there has been a massive growth of societal awareness. We did not get the parliament but we got the streets, and if it’s not this year, it will be the next.
I toast to those pibas (gurlz, the editor) that are organized in the underground to reach those pibas in the harshest loneliness, uncertainty, and suffering. I toast to claim the right to the property of my body and my life.
*Das Titelbild zeigt eine Großdemonstration für die Legalisierung von Abtreibungen, die am 5. Juni dieses Jahres in Buenos Aires stattfand. Die Bewegung, erkennbar an den grünen Tüchern, startete 2015 unter dem Credo Ni una menos (etwa: keine mehr), das sich gegen die horrende Zahl von Morden an argentinischen Frauen richtete; in den folgenden Jahren kamen weitere feministische Themen und Forderungen hinzu.
Redaktion: Fabian Stark