A 34-year-old woman died this week due to an at-home abortion gone wrong, Clarín reports. Elizabeth, as she has been reported, was the mother of a 2-year-old child, and her death is the first reported tragedy following the Senate’s decision to reject what would have been a historic bill to legalize abortion up to 14 weeks.
A crime since the late nineteenth century, abortion is the leading cause of maternal mortality in Argentina. Elizabeth’s case was harrowing, though not unfamiliar. In an attempt to induce an abortion, she inserted parsley in her vagina. That led to an infection which, despite the removal of her uterus at the local hospital and two days at two different facilities, led to her death the following day. This was reportedly her third abortion.
The Network of Professionals for the Right to Decide, a group of pro-choice medical workers, announced Elizabeth’s death in a statement. They asked: “How many women and pregnant people will need to die [before lawmakers agree] that abortion must be legal, safe and free in Argentina?” Senator Eduardo Aguilar wrote on Twitter: “There might not be a law, but abortions will continue, and if it’s without a law, the woman’s life is at risk.”
They went on to say “we also hold authorities responsible for this death.” Including, but not limited to, governor of the province of Buenos Aires María Eugenia Vidal, who recently said she was “relieved” at the news that abortions would continue to be clandestine. As news of Elizabeth’s death spread in Argentina, this blame was echoed with the #ElSenadoEsResponsable hashtag—which translates as “The Senate is Responsible.”
According to Human Rights Watch, 40 percent of Argentine pregnancies end in abortion. Yet, abortion continues to be taboo and illegal (with the exception of cases of rape or grave risk to the mother or child). Broadly, poor women end up suffering most as they don’t have the means to get the proper care required and resort to tremendously dangerous alternatives instead.
The “Ni Una Menos” movement (Not One Less) has been vocal about this reality for the last three years and pro-choice advocates have organized large protests in support of a more progressive stance. The Catholic church and political leaders in Argentina were clearly shaken—but not moved.