Interview with Marianne Mollmann
Mujeres Autoconvocadas Rosario (MAR) is a local network of over forty
women''s organizations, NGOs, government representatives and individuals. On
Tuesday, November 15 in the city of Rosario, MAR invited the Danish jurist
Marianne Mollmann, a member of the Women''s Rights Division of Human Rights
Watch, to present her Research Paper: ''''Decisión prohibida: Acceso de las
mujeres a los anticonceptivos y al aborto en Argentina'''' - ''''Forbidden
Decision: Women''s access to contraceptives and abortion in Argentina.''''
AWID: Why was Argentina selected for this research?
M. M.: This problem is very prevalent throughout the region, but we
selected this country because it came to our attention that 40% of
pregnancies result in illegal abortions, as accessing a legal abortion is
practically impossible. In theory, the probability of accessing a legal
abortion is minimal, and only occurs if one''s life is in danger or the
woman''s health is at risk, or in the case of the raping of a mentally
disabled woman. The legal options are minimal.
According to Mollmann, these elevated percentages of pregnancies that
result in abortions are due to restrictions or failures in the health
system or the result of responsible procreation. It is not because women
decide - as she ironically stated - ''''to have seven abortions as a life
The research aimed at unveiling the current restrictions that violate the
right of a woman to freely decide over her own body and to access
information to be able to make the right decisions.
The report points out that ''''despite the adoption of a promising
reproductive health law, medical doctors and spouses continue to exercise
control over women''s reproductive health through political laws that
compromise women''s decision making, and place it in the hands of external
arbitrary interference. Domestic and sexual violence are constant
challenges for women wanting to access contraceptives. A significant number
of abusive men intentionally sabotage their wives'' or partner''s attempts to
access contraceptives as part of their abuse.
Incorrect or tendentious information given by public health system workers
represents another challenge to women accessing contraceptives. In
addition, various women simply cannot afford to pay for contraceptive
methods, and government promises to subsidize them often do not reach those
most in need.
Voluntary access to female sterilization -one of the most effective
contraceptive methods- is subject to arbitrary and discriminatory
restrictions by the government. Furthermore, some public health officers
demand that women provide legal authorization to be able to access
sterilization, even if they meet all the requirements, which violates their
As a result of this research HRW has provided the Argentine State with a
series of recommendations that intend to solve and end women''s rights
violations as they are defined in the 1994 National Constitution.
The recommendations are as follows:
- To ensure that women have access to comprehensive, accurate and timely
- To make available a wide range of contraceptive methods - including
- To guarantee the access to voluntary and safe abortion that cannot be
prosecuted through the Penal Code, and
- To ensure that women have access to humanitarian post-abortion care
without being afraid of any legal ramifications.
AWID: How do you see the Argentine situation in relation to the rest of
countries in the region?
M. M.: Studies should be done in each country in order to compare and
provide an in-depth picture of actual access, compare legislation, but most
surprising to me is that in Argentina there is a lack of recognition of the
necessity of a secular state in order to really address these rights, which
are international rights. In contrast in Mexico, also a Catholic country, in
which the general population takes into account priests'' opinions, there
also exists indignation when it is felt that the church becomes too
involved in politics; there is a consciousness that state and church should
not be mixed. Politics is one thing, especially state politics, which should
follow universal guidelines that are separate from personal beliefs, and the
Church is something else. The Church has the right to say whatever it likes,
but it is recognized that it should remain separate, even among Catholics,
something that I have not seen in Argentina. I have not seen indignation in
the face of a state that incorporates one particular faith in its guidelines
for certain policies, and this is an obstacle for this kind of problem.
AWID: And abortion?
M.M.: As I have said, here women can access an abortion when their life or
health is threatened or in the case of rape of a mentally disabled woman.
This caught my attention as in other countries rape is sufficient to access
abortion without more explanations. It is as though it is to be made
absolutely clear that that woman did not have the possibility to consent to
having sexual relations; it has to do with the mentality that a woman, in
some way or another provoked or wanted, or showed interest in having sexual
relations, does not deserve in a future instance to have autonomy over her
body. It is a very important distinction which determines those that have
access to abortion, and those that do not.