Last December, Argentine women achieved an important victory in their struggle for abortion rights: the passing of the voluntary termination of pregnancy law (IVE, by its Spanish acronym) which ensures the right to free, legal, and safe abortions. We were part of this fight and we celebrate its triumph. The repercussions of this outcome are already being felt across the American continent and the world. Nevertheless, the government of Alberto Fernández and Cristina Kirchner want to appropriate this win by claiming that it was only possible thanks to the action of Frente de Todos (“Everybody’s Front,” an alliance between Kirchnerism and other Peronist currents).
By Ruth Diaz and Alejandro Iturbe, translated to English by Tara
The government’s claims are a gross deformation of reality. Not only because the ‘Green Wave’ of women (so identified because of the green bandanas they wear) were the indisputable protagonists of the struggle, but also because Peronism is a current with a very negative history on abortion rights. Let’s look at the facts.
For example, in December 1973, during his third presidential term, Juan Domingo Perón presented the Triennial Plan for National Reconstruction and Liberation, a project that, among other things, articulated an anti-abortion position on the basis that there was a need to “stimulate the birth rate.” It wasn’t a new position for Perón, who actively pushed for the same during his first two terms . It also isn’t a coincidence that various bishops cited Perón’s position on abortion in a letter to senators calling on them to vote against the law.
This anti-abortion position was also shared by his wife Evita, who has been defended by Peronism as a key historic figure in the fight for women’s rights. In 1950, in a speech given before a group of nurses, she said “Abortion is a conservative whim and bourgeois, comrades, each abortion that you allow is a service to the colonial powers that want to weaken the revolution, every unborn child is one man less in the defense of the nation and Peron” . On another occasion she declared that “the womb is the sacred cradle where life is generated” .
Another subsequent President, Carlos Ménem, was also clearly against the abortion rights . He still maintains this position today as a senator for La Rioja and a political ally to the government. Although he wasn’t able to vote in this historic session because he was ill and in the hospital, his daughter Zulemita made his position publicly known .
Now, let’s turn to Kirchernism which has led the government for twelve years and three presidential terms. In her second term, Cristina Kirchner was elected with 54% of the vote and had a majority in both chambers of Parliament. Nevertheless, she didn’t push for any reforms of the abortion law. In reality, she was against the right to abortion because of her relationship with Pope Francisco. Recently, during the first surge of the ‘Green Wave’ that demanded a new abortion law during the government of Mauricio Macri (2019), she changed her position and as a senator voted in favor of the new law which ended up being defeated in the Senate .
We are certain that many women who support Kirchnerism and militate in this current were an active part of this struggle. But the reality is that the current government pushed for the IVE law, joining the ‘Green Wave’ as political opportunists, where they used it as a means of appearing to support “progressive measures” in the context of their disastrous handling of the coronavirus pandemic, the harsh attacks on salaries and working conditions, and the ongoing deterioration of pensions. Within the framework of supporting the law, they also worked to erode its content by introducing the “right to conscientious objection”, which allows doctors to refuse to perform abortions if it goes against their beliefs.
The Feminist History of Morenism
In contrast, the Morenist current (founded by Nahuel Moreno in 1944) has always had a coherent stance on abortion rights. In 1973, this was expressed through the PST (Socialist Worker’s Party, or Partido Socialista de Trabajadores), which had just gained legal status to participate in presidential elections. In March of that year, PST participated in the elections with socialist ex-representative Juan Carlos Coral and Nora Ciaponni, a young textile worker from the La Hidrofila factory as candidates.
During the elections, Nora was the only woman candidate elected to an executive office. Moreover she was the first to successfully raise the demand for the right to abortion in a political campaign. The following slogan expressed her position during the campaign: “We demand the right to love and the right to abort” (“Exigimos el derecho de amar y de abortar”) .
While it was Nora who gave voice and shape to this demand, it was already part of the PST’s program at a time when abortion rights weren’t as readily discussed as they are today. As we have seen, Peronism was clearly positioned against abortion rights and feminist organizations at the time didn’t have a policy of agitating the masses for this demand, nor did they demand that candidates publicly state their position on abortion.
This is not just our appraisal either. The journalist and researcher Marta Belucci writes, “In those years, the PST gained relevance for being the only local party determined to propose a specific program under the aegis of women, and for the content of its demands as well as its forms of struggle against female subalternity.” More specifically, in the context of these demands, the party “advocated for [access to] free and legal abortion in state institutions with all the necessary guarantees of health and safety” .
In the key event of the campaign, Linda Jenes, the presidential candidate of the PST sibling party in the United States at that time (Socialist Workers Party) was invited to participate. Her speech centered on two important points: support for the Vietnamese people’s struggle against an imperialist army, and a call to step up the fight for women’s liberation.
A Longer Legacy
Despite the value of these demands, the PST was simply remaining true to the revolutionary Marxist trajectory laid out by Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Trotsky. There is yet another historical fact of greater importance; the young Soviet Union during Lenin and Trotsky’s government was the first nation to legalize free and voluntary abortion in 1920. 100 years ago!
This isn’t a coincidence, rather, it was part of the defense of the lives of working women, who saw themselves obligated to seek clandestine abortions without guarantees of health or medical safety. The preface of the decree expressed that “The legislation of all countries combats this wrong by punishing those women who decide to have an abortion and the doctors who undertake these operations. Without having obtained favorable results, this method of addressing abortion has led to clandestine operations and women have become victims of mercenaries, who, often ignorant, make their operations a secret of their profession”. In this sense it should not be considered a demand for women exclusively, but rather a demand and struggle for the entire working class.
Additionally, the first country in Latin America to legalize abortion was Cuba in 1965. This is to say that this right was also won as a result of a socialist revolution .
We don’t attribute this recent victory to ourselves, as we have said it was the result of the struggle of the masses of Argentine women (and the many men who supported them). Nevertheless, we are proud of the historical trajectory of which we have been a part, together with many other collectives and organizations in this victory.
You can find the original Spanish version of this article here