ROME – No one in Argentina doubts where the Church stands on abortion: from history’s first pope from the global south to every bishop, they’ve all spoken up in recent weeks as the country debates a bill that would legalize abortion until the 14th week of pregnancy.
Yet when it comes to defending the unborn, the Argentine hierarchy also has moved to the side, letting grassroot Catholics- as well as Evangelicals, atheists, and others – raise their voices. They did so on Sunday, when an estimated 3.5 million people rallied in 117 cities against the bill.
Argentine President Mauricio Macri is the one who allowed the ongoing debate to take place, saying that he wouldn’t veto a law if it were to pass in Congress while insisting that he’s personally “in favor of life.”
This was the second pro-life rally in Argentina since Macri announced he’d allow the debate. The first one, held in March, saw some two million people take to the streets.
Sunday’s event was organized by Marcha por la Vida (Rally for life), an umbrella organization that unites all the national pro-life organizations, such as +Vida, Argentina Pro Vida, and the Alliance of Argentine Christian Evangelical Churches (ACIERA) of the Federal Network of Families.
The motto of the rally was “Protect them both,” meaning the mother and the unborn child.
In Buenos Aires, organizers read a manifesto asking legislators of both the government and the opposition to categorically reject a project that would allow for pregnancies to be terminated until week 14, and even after that if the unborn child is diagnosed with disorders including Down Syndrome.
(Statistics show that in countries where similar measures have been adopted, up to 98 percent of pregnancies with potential disabilities are terminated.)
Currently abortion is illegal in Argentina, though in nine provinces there’s a protocol that allows for it under extreme circumstances, including rape and the life of the mother being at risk.
Abortion is now being debated in the Chamber of Deputies, and the rally took place two weeks before public audiences over the issue come to a close.
Though there have been some priests and even one of Pope Francis’s “slum bishops” addressing the politicians, most of the speakers against the bill have been laity from various religious backgrounds.
Participants shared pictures of the different rallies on social media, with people carrying signs calling for the protection of a child “from the mother’s womb,” “I want to be born, my life is in your hands,” “I love life,” “No woman’s right should step over a human right,” “Save them both,” and “I’m an atheist, this is not about religion.”
No incidents were reported after the rally, nor was any public property destroyed during the event that took place on Sunday afternoon.
This is a stark contrast from the usual signs in pro-abortion rallies in Francis’s country, which often leave writings on the walls of government buildings, churches and storefronts with anti-Catholic slogans such as, “If the pope was a woman, abortion would be law,” “No baby is born straight,” “Don’t oppress me,” “Take your rosaries off our ovaries,” and “Death to the macho.”
In the statement read in Buenos Aires, organizers said that they were rallying because “we consider that it’s inadmissible that in democracy we’re debating the possibility of eliminating human beings at will.”
“We rally because we want to protect both lives since, whether it’s done at the mother’s request or not, abortion causes the woman and those around her irreparable damage, becoming an attack against society’s common good,” the statement said.
Organizers also said that behind the problem of abortion there are “difficult and painful situations, of violence, marginalization, poverty, lack of formation, loneliness and abandonment; but our most intimate conviction is that abortion is never the solution.”
According to Argentina’s Catholic news agency, among the religious leaders of different faiths who participated in the rally was Catholic Bishop Pedro Laxague of Zarate-Campana.
“As representatives of different faiths in favor of both lives, we recognize human life as a gift from God, as a miracle that begins at conception,” he said.
Aerial footage of the May 20 pro-life rally in Buenos Aires, Pope Francis’s former diocese: