Testy Argentine abortion row features video games, slum priests

Testy Argentine abortion row features video games, slum priests

Testy Argentine abortion row features video games, slum priests

A pro-choice demonstrator participates in a concentration to support an abortion legalization law, near Argentina's congress in Buenos Aires, Wednesday, June 13, 2018. (Credit: AP Photo/Jorge Saenz.)

Argentina's legislature has begun debating a measure that would allow elective abortions in the first 14 weeks of gestation. It's a debate that has sharply divided the homeland of Pope Francis.

An already noticeable edge to Argentina’s mounting abortion debate turned even nastier in mid-July with the release of a “Doom”-inspired video game called “Doom Fetito,” in which players scramble to procure an abortion-inducing drug by battling Catholic priests, Nazi-like police and pro-life women, and then ultimately kill “the boss,” meaning an unborn child.

Designed by self-described pro-choice activists in Argentina, the video game is the latest example of how both proponents and foes of a draft bill currently before the country’s Senate are trying to find innovative ways to get their message across.

The game is inspired by a giant 20-week cardboard unborn baby that has appeared in some pro-life rallies that have taken place in the past few months.

In the game, when the player kills the “little fetus,” they get a message saying “You defeated fetito! Give this misoprostol to those in need so they might defeat it too!” (Misoprostol is a medication used, among other things, to induce an abortion.)

Explaining her decision to create the game, designer Florencia Rumpel is quoted by the Argentine site Kotaku as saying: “What these anti-rights people were doing was plain ridiculous, and someone had to point that out.”

Rumpel said she produced the game during an “Anti-Fascist Game Jam.”

“Doom Fetito,” or “Doom baby fetus,” a video game designed by Florencia Rumpel during her participation in the Anti-Fascist Game Jam. (Credit: Screen caption/YouTube Florencia Rumpel.)

One part of the law currently being debated in Argentina, which would legalize abortion on demand until week 14 of a pregnancy and in several scenarios until the ninth month, is to make misoprostol more easily available in local pharmacies.

In 2015, a 17-year old Argentine woman died of complications due to a pill-induced abortion she received at a local hospital, under the application of what is known as the “non-punitive abortions” protocol adopted by former President Cristina Kirchner.

Keila Jones was eight weeks pregnant when she went to a social worker. She said she didn’t know what to do with her unplanned pregnancy and was sent to a local hospital, where they administered misopostrol. After the procedure she called her mother, who was told by doctors she had a “strong menstrual cycle.” Within four days, however, she was dead as a result of internal bleeding and other complications.

“That was the day that my daughter’s life ended,” Jones’ mother said in a 2017 video that has since gone viral. “She died and I lost my daughter and my grandson.”

She’s currently suing the doctor who administered the drug, as Jones was a minor and should have had parental approval. If the bill that will be voted in the Senate on August 8 is passed, however, girls as young as 16 could have an abortion without informing their parents or the father.

“Abortion kills,” Jones’ mother said. “If your daughter is pregnant, help her, support her, console her. Abortion is not life, it’s not health.”

Support for mothers who are facing an unplanned pregnancy in challenging situations is the key element of a counter-bill presented at the same time as the pro-abortion measure, yet it hasn’t been debated. A group of priests working in the slums of Buenos Aires has recently decided not to sit around and wait.

Known as “villero priests,” a ministry heavily supported by then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio (today Pope Francis), the group is composed of some 20 priests who not only work in the slums but actually live there.

Last week they announced that they’re going to be opening homes for adolescent and young single women facing pregnancies in challenging situations, called “Home of the Maternal Hug.”

Though they didn’t give a number, the priests have said they’re committed to opening one in each of their communities, so there could be more than a dozen in Buenos Aires in the near future.

“We want to give a concrete response to the needs of our slums and popular neighborhoods, where life is welcomed despite the difficulties,” they wrote. “Each pregnancy, each girl and boy, is waited for and received as a gift, with the hope of a different, better future.”

Noting that their commitment to life and poor women is something they’ve learned from the Gospel, they wrote that many times in the slums, women are mothers to their children “and to those down the hallway.”

“Yes, in moments in which so many speak about the poor, showing their ‘concern’ for them, our communities want to once again make visible that the women of our neighborhoods chose life, the life of the girl or boy who is coming and that of the mother who is carrying the life in her womb, even if many times they have to do so alone, without a man owning up to his fatherhood,” the priests wrote.

Women will be the great protagonists of the centers they’re opening, the priests said, as “subjects of rights who not only receive support and care, but who also give it to their peers.”

After inviting others to replicate their initiatives, the priests wrote that the centers will offer food, medical attention, psychological support and legal and social orientation, not only throughout the pregnancy but also during the first years of their children.

But opening the centers is not all these slum priests have committed to: they will also open up the parishes in each poor neighborhood and offer pregnant women a place where they can have lunch and afternoon snacks, rest, formation and orientation for whatever situation they’re facing, including fast adoptions if that’s the route the women want to take.

Similar support will be offered to young dads and women who’ve gone though the “drama of an abortion.” They will be able to find support in these day-centers and parishes too.

Francis, they say, has often denounced the “throw-away culture” of modern societies: “The elderly, immigrants, people with disabilities, the poor and the unborn children are a burden, they ask for our attention, they ask for our care, they ‘steal’ our comforts and privileges, so there’s a strong tendency to discard them, take from them their right to exist.”

According to the latest poll by IPSOS, a Paris-based marketing research company, 49 percent of Argentina’s population rejects legal abortion, 40 percent supports it, while the rest doesn’t have an opinion.

The poll released last week also shows that rejection of the bill is higher among women than men. Among those of lower income status opposition goes up to 57 percent, with only 32 percent in favor, while among wealthy women the acceptance of the bill is 52 percent.

Though the bill is being presented as a “health emergency,” many of those who spoke in the Argentine senate in recent days noted that in 2016, 43 women died of a pregnancy that ended in abortion. The national health ministry doesn’t distinguish between induced abortion and miscarriage. Statistically speaking, it’s the 70th cause of maternal death in the country.

Also in remarks to the senate, lawyers reiterated that it would violate Argentina’s Constitution, which considers life to begin at conception.

Though the bill contemplates individual conscientious objection, every hospital in the country would be required to provide abortions within five days of a request. If refused, the doctor and other members of the staff could face prison time.

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