President Mauricio Macri said Thursday that Congress should launch a debate on broader legalisation of abortion, though he said he opposes it.
Macri’s 40-minute speech to Congress — his third State of the Nation address since coming to office — featured few major policy announcements.
A lawmaker for Macri’s Cambiemos coalition Luis Naidenoff described the speech as “careful” but celebrated that the president “did not look toward the past” but rather “the future”.
“The president delivered a speech for the medium and long term. He also made a strong reassessment of the value of Congress based on the plans (to legislate) that we have this year”, Naidenoff told FM Millennium.
Macri announced just two bills his government will send to Congress: a Labour Inclusion Law and legislation to extend paternity leave which is currently only two days.
He called on lawmakers to prioritise an existing Productive Financing bill, which looks likely to pass the Lower House, and modifications to the Criminal Procedures Code and Criminal Code.
He also called for a new Telecommunications Law to incorporate new technologies into the existing system of regulations. Other requests included a stronger approach to drug-trafficking and legislation to make national school test results publicly available.
A SAFE SPEECH
The speech was remarkably less provocative than in previous years. Macri famously spent much of his first State of the Nation address in 2016 attacking the legacy of former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.
Fernández de Kirchner was recently elected a Senator but she boycotted yesterday’s presentation, choosing instead to travel to her hometown in the south.
Macri stayed clear of any strong statements about his government’s intentions to implement labour reform.
He also avoided touching on a most recent hot topic: the ruling Cambiemos coalition’s bill to implement a reciprocity arrangement with neighbouring countries in order to “cover the costs” of foreigners using Argentina’s public health and education systems.
Interestingly, Macri — who along with a number of his Cabinet ministers opposes the proposed reform to abortion legislation — did not shy away from the topic of abortion.
He told lawmakers that he favours “mature, responsible debates,” and his government believes that Congress should include the issue in its 2018 agenda.
“I hope all voices are heard and are taken into consideration,” Macri said.
Abortion is only allowed in Argentina in cases of rape and health risks to the woman. But woman’s health advocates say that politicians, doctors and judges often continue to block therapeutic abortions despite a 2012 Supreme Court ruling that was supposed to remove barriers to abortion and take judges out of such decisions.
The health ministry estimates that between 370,000 and 522,000 Argentine women undergo illegal abortions each year.