“It is impossible to further the common good without acknowledging and defending the right to life, upon which all the other inalienable rights of individuals are founded and from which they develop.”
─ Pope St. John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae, no. 101
In the chaos that characterized the end of 2020, many people missed one of the most important – and discouraging – stories of the year. In the waning hours of 2020, the Argentinean Senate voted 38-29 to legalize abortion-on-demand up to the 14th week of pregnancy. The Chamber of Deputies had passed the bill a few weeks earlier.
And so, one more nation falls to the culture of death.
The scenes from Argentina in the moments after the Senate vote was announced were reminiscent of the scenes from Ireland in 2018, after the vote to repeal the 8th Amendment, which had banned abortion in the Catholic country. As in Ireland, the pro-abortion crowds gathered in the streets of Argentina screamed and shouted and wept, hugging one another in raptures of joy.
As someone who knows that the unborn child is a living human being, as deserving of the right to life as you or I, it is difficult to reconcile these scenes of happiness with the reality of what had just occurred. People were openly celebrating the “right” to kill other human beings. They were shedding tears of joy over this “progress.”
If only those pro-abortion activists knew what they had just unleashed on their country! In one fell swoop they had just undermined the entire foundation of the edifice of human rights, and potentially paved the way for the further advancement of the culture of death in the region.
As Pope St. John Paul II wrote in Christifideles Laici,
The inviolability of the person which is a reflection of the absolute inviolability of God, finds its primary and fundamental expression in the inviolability of human life. Above all, the common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights – for example, the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture – is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination. (no. 38)
The pro-life organization C-Fam reports that the abortion law passed in Argentina is especially sinister in a number of ways.
“Argentina’s new law doesn’t just decriminalize abortion,” writes Stefano Gennarini. “It declares abortion-on-demand in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy an international human right. It refers to ‘gestating persons’ instead of pregnant women. Girls as young as 13 will be able to get an abortion without parental consent under the new law.”
In addition, the law erodes conscience rights, making it illegal for nurses or doctors to try to convince a woman not to get an abortion.
Argentina only legalized abortion after an intense pressure campaign from wealthy and powerful developed nations. As Gennarini reports, “Argentina was urged to legalize abortion by Germany, France, and Norway, and another half-dozen countries in the Human Rights Council in Geneva in 2017, when it last reported on its human rights record.”
In addition, according t0 Gennarini, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) “had made legalizing abortion a condition of repackaging Argentina’s out of control national debt.” In other words, powerful international forces had blackmailed Argentina into sacrificing its unborn children, in exchange for financial benefits.
In general, Latin America remains strongly pro-life. Only a few nations allow abortion, and even then, abortion is typically only legal in a certain number of cases. However, international pro-abortion forces believe that once they can get a foothold on the region, then perhaps they might see a domino effect, with other nations soon following suit.
Pro-Lifers Prepare to Fight
HLI has been for nearly three decades an active participant in the pro-life movement in Argentina. I personally have been on missions in this country, working closely with our affiliates and international team in Latin America. Through these affiliate relationships and in collaboration with Church and civil leaders, as well as with other pro-life activists, we have worked tirelessly on the cultural battlefield in Argentina to protect human life from the culture of death, educating the public on the intrinsic evil of abortion and the dire consequences if accepted and legalized. Pro-life advocates in Argentina fought vigorously to protect their nation and people from the ensuing violence and they are to be commended for their heroic efforts.
The legalization vote came after a multi-year fight, in which pro-life activists in the country ran one of the most sophisticated, jubilant, and massive pro-life campaigns in history.
Each side in the debate was represented by a certain color – the pro-life side by blue, and the pro-abortion side by green. Over the past two years, the pro-life side has organized some of the largest pro-life marches in history, with an estimated attendance of multiple millions of participants across the country.
The imagery from these marches is astonishing and inspiring. Massive crowds of young families danced and sang through the streets, many of them dressed in blue or carrying blue banners. Vast seas of pro-life Argentineans hit the streets to tell legislators that they stand with the vulnerable.
The loss with this legalization is crushing for the country’s pro-life activists. But with an indefatigable spirit, they are vowing to continue fighting. And they have a plan.
“First, we’re trying to brake this in court,” pro-life leader Camila Duro told LifeSiteNews in a recent interview. “After that,” she said, “the cultural battle is the priority. We’ll work to make abortion unthinkable. We’ll fight. Our doctors and the people are mostly against abortion. This is just a new start.” (emphasis added)
Life: The First and Foundational Human Right
All human rights originate in the immutable and innate dignity of the human person. In our times, evil forces are working tirelessly to degrade the fundamental uniqueness and inviolable dignity of every human person, most especially the child in the womb.
Is killing a human right? If killing an innocent child in the womb is a “human right,” then the same right gives me the permission, the right, to arbitrarily kill someone outside the womb. There is no distinction. Mother Teresa spoke of this issue: “If we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell people not to kill one another?”
In a powerful statement on abortion, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith noted:
“The first right of the human person is his life. He has other goods and some are more precious, but this one is fundamental – the condition of all the others. Hence it must be protected above all others. It does not belong to society, nor does it belong to public authority in any form to recognize this right for some and not for others.” (Declaration on Procured Abortion, no. 11)
A child in the womb is an independent life, separate from the life of the mother – just like a person walking alongside me on the street. By denying the right to life to an entire class of its most vulnerable citizens, Argentina has opened the door to all manner of human rights abuses, and to societal and family breakdown.
However, the Argentinean pro-life movement is prepared for the fight, for as long as it might last.
“It was painful. Very painful,” Camila Duro said of the vote to legalize abortion. “I think the best we can do is to fight this battle till the end. The worst thing is to consider how many years this new battle is going to take, and how many babies are going to die because of this law, and how many women are going to be broken because of abortion.”
Pro-life activists, like those in Argentina, are the true civil rights heroes of our time. Despite facing powerful and well-funded international pro-abortion forces, they retain a spirit of hope and determination. The same is true here in the United States, and in so many nations around the world.
Though the culture of death is dominant in so much of the world, we know that death will not have the final word. “O grave, where is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” wrote St. Paul to the Corinthians. The culture of death has claimed, and will claim, many lives. But it is not the final word. For, continues St. Paul, “thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”