Activists carried thermoses of hot water and maté to share throughout the evening as they called for “Aborto Legal Ya.” (Photo by Cecilia Nowell)
Argentina, Dispatches, Photo Essays, Southern Cone

‘Green Wave’ Sweeps Buenos Aires as New Bill is Proposed to Legalize Abortion

May 30, 2019 By Cecilia Nowell

BUENOS AIRES—Thousands of Argentines turned out in the streets and parks surrounding the Palace of the Argentine National Congress in Buenos Aires on Tuesday. Donning green scarves, face-paint and make-up, activists came out to support the National Campaign for Legal, Safe and Free Abortion, which presented a bill to legalize abortion to the Argentine congress the same day.

Along the main avenues, activists from feminist collectives, human rights organizations and workers’ associations tended booths and distributed fliers about reproductive rights. Street vendors took advantage of the opportunity to start barbecues and sell knock-offs of the popular green scarf worn by supporters of the campaign. Groups of friends gathered in circles to share maté while they waited for the campaign’s presentation to officially conclude inside congress.

Mothers brought their children out in support of the rally. Many of the children carried signs that read “Girls, not mothers” — a subtle reference to the case of Lucía that made headlines in March. Here, a young girl in all green shows off her wings, which read “Legal Abortion Now.” (Photo by Cecilia Nowell)

Activists adorned themselves in green and purple — the colors of the National Campaign and Ni Una Menos — on Tuesday. Many brought their own makeup, but collectives also offered to paint feminist symbols onto activists who braved the long lines. (Photo by Cecilia Nowell)

In Argentina, abortion is currently legal in only two circumstances: cases of rape or risk to the mother’s health. This year’s bill for “the Voluntary Interruption of Pregnancy” would legalize abortion up to 14 weeks of pregnancy in any case and continue to allow “the Legal Interruption of Pregnancy” at any point in pregnancy based on rape or risk to the mother’s health.

The campaign’s proposal is based on seven previous bills it has submitted to congress since its founding in 2005. The group chose May 28 to present the bill to congress because it coincided with the campaign’s 14th anniversary and the International Day of Action for Women’s Health. Last year, the campaign made history when its bill to legalize abortion was debated and voted on for the first time in both houses of the Argentine congress. The 2018 bill narrowly failed in the upper house of the Argentine congress, but it sparked a “green wave” across Argentina. Rallies in support of the bill drew a million activists to the streets of Buenos Aires.

Members of feminist collectives, workers’ unions and human rights organizations gathered to support the campaign. Here, members of the Socialist Worker’s Movement rally outside congress. (Photo by Cecilia Nowell)

Groups of friends turned out in support of the campaign and passed the evening outside congress to demand legal abortion access. (Photo by Cecilia Nowell)

“Argentina and the world changed thanks to the historic events of 2018,” said María José Corvalan, an activist with the campaign. She explained that the massive protests in June and August last year helped destigmatize abortion by bringing conversations about reproductive health out of the home and into the streets and complicated those conversations by moving beyond only cases of rape or risk to the mother.

Last year’s green wave was very much present at this week’s rally — and is likely to continue in the coming weeks. On June 3, members of the National Campaign will join other Argentine feminists at the Ni Una Menos march along the Avenida de Mayo, between the Argentine congress and presidential office. Ni Una Menos (“Not One Less”) is an anti-femicide campaign that has taken on issues of migration, trans rights and the country’s economic crisis in recent years.

Mass demonstrations to legalize abortion in 2018 became known as “the green wave” — referring to the growing support for the National Campaign. Here, an artist painted a green wave rolling over the Argentine congress. (Photo by Cecilia Nowell)

Nearly every participant in Tuesday’s rally wore the green pañuelo of the National Campaign. Some women took to wearing them as hair ties, bandanas or shirts. (Photo by Cecilia Nowell)

With presidential elections approaching in October, the campaign is committed to keeping abortion in the political spotlight.

“We know that in this time of elections, the candidates feel challenged by our bill and worry about losing votes from those who oppose the bill,” Corvalan said. “Even so, our demand is that they consider and approve the bill.”

Thousands of activists turned out along Avenida Rivadavia and flooded the congressional plaza while the campaign presented its bill to legalize abortion to congress. (Photo by Cecilia Nowell)

Activists adorned themselves in green and blue — the colors of the National Campaign and Ni Una Menos — for Tuesday’s rally. (Photo by Cecilia Nowell)

About Cecilia Nowell

Cecilia is a New York-based journalist whose writing focuses on feminism, migration, political art and Latin America. She has bylines in Ms. Magazine, Bitch Magazine, Bust Magazine, The Establishment and Bedford + Bowery. In a former life, she worked as a paralegal at an immigration law firm in Boston. She is currently pursuing a master's degree in journalism and international relations at NYU.