BUENOS AIRES — Lucía Bulat, a 19-year-old medical student, was dancing on the steps of the congressional palace in Buenos Aires as she looked out on a crowd of abortion rights demonstrators who had gathered in Argentina’s capital.
“It’s a beautiful day,” Ms. Bulat said on Tuesday. “We’re empowering ourselves and demanding our rights. We can’t let people keep telling us what we can and cannot do with our own bodies.”
Not long ago, abortion rights activists in Argentina had little reason to believe they could make the polarizing issue a legislative priority.
But lawmakers in Pope Francis’ homeland began considering legislation this past week that would allow women to have an abortion in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy.
If backers of the measure succeed, Argentina would become the most populous country in Latin America to allow women to terminate pregnancies — a milestone in a region where strict abortion laws are the norm.
The arrival of an abortion bill in the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of Argentina’s Congress, is widely seen as a direct outgrowth of a broader women’s rights movement in the country that started in 2015 with a campaign against femicides called “Ni Una Menos,” “Not One Less.”
Hundreds of thousands of women have taken to the streets in recent years to raise awareness about domestic violence and press for stronger laws to protect women.
“The Ni Una Menos movement led to a surge of adherence to the feminist movement and a generalized demand for more equal rights,” said Dora Barrancos, 77, a sociologist at the National Scientific and Technical Research Council, a government agency. “This change is very overwhelming.”
For Andrea Schenk, 28, who joined the abortion rights demonstrators outside Congress, the link between Ni Una Menos and the abortion debate unfolding among lawmakers is undeniable.
A demonstration in favor of abortion rights in front of the congressional palace in Buenos Aires on Tuesday. Credit Agustin Marcarian/Reuters