March 6, 2020 / 2:55 PM / 22 days ago

Argentine filmmaker throws spotlight on abortion amid legalization push

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Amid a renewed push in Argentina to legalize abortion, filmmaker Andrea Testa hopes to spotlight the plight of young women in a country where campaigners say that every three hours a girl between 10 to 14 years old gives birth.

FILE PHOTO: Argentine filmmaker Andrea Testa poses with a green handkerchief, which symbolises the abortion rights movement, during an interview with Reuters, in Buenos Aires, Argentina March 4, 2020. REUTERS/Lucila Sigal

Testa’s new documentary, “Girl Mother”, follows women from socially vulnerable backgrounds who are forced to have children under Argentine law where abortion is illegal, except in cases of rape and when there is danger to life or health.

“Many girls are in this situation because of violence, not only because of unplanned pregnancies which they have to take care of,” Testa, 32, said an interview with Reuters.

It comes at a time of potential tectonic shifts in Argentina, where President Alberto Fernandez is pushing a bill to Congress to legalize abortion that would make the country the first major economy in Latin America to do so.

A previous bill to legalize abortion up to 14 weeks was passed by the lower house but rejected by the senate after a campaign by the country’s powerful Roman Catholic Church.

“It’s great that (Fernandez) is spearheading this legislation as president. I hope the best possible law comes out,” added the director, whose black-and-white film premiered on Thursday ahead of International Women’s Day on March 8.

The documentary follows young women between the ages of 14 and 24: one teenager goes to hospital to terminate a pregnancy after being raped; another suffers a hemorrhage after taking a pill to end an unwanted pregnancy; a third has a difficult delivery due to injuries from an abusive partner.

“It’s a painful film about a social emergency,” Testa said.

One campaign, #NiñasNoMadres, founded among others by Amnesty International to denounce sexual violence and forced childbirth, estimates eight girls aged 10 to 14 years old give birth every day in Argentina, one every three hours.

Abortion is illegal in almost all of Latin America, a predominantly Catholic region where only Cuba, Uruguay, Guyana and Puerto Rico have fully legalized the practice.

In the homeland of Pope Francis, the fight for legal abortion has been a struggle, with strong opposition from the Catholic Church, which is holding its own rally on March 8 under the slogan “Yes to women. Yes to life.”

Testa said the push for abortion and other rights remained a battle facing many obstacles.

“(These women) face violence from partners, from society, in the hospital. So this is a film about women who survive.”

Reporting by Lucila Sigal; Writing by Adam Jourdan; Editing by Nick Zieminski

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