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As Legislators Consider Changes to the Abortion Law, New Poll Proves Argentineans Support Access to Abortion and Reject the Influence of Catholic Bishops

October 28, 2011

Buenos Aires, Argentina – As a parliamentary committee in Argentina prepares to discuss liberalizing the abortion law at a hearing on November 1, a new poll released today reveals that most Argentineans are in favor of the components of legislative attempts to reform the abortion law. Currently, while abortion is legal in a few circumstances, it is largely unobtainable for most women. Over 80 percent support a woman’s right to access abortion care when her health is at risk and/or when the pregnancy is a result of rape. Almost 70 percent of those polled were in favor of abortion being available when the fetus has severe abnormalities. One of the most striking disparities revealed by the survey was that, while abortion may currently be almost completely unobtainable in Argentina, a third of Argentineans know someone who has had an abortion (34 percent).

“The results of this poll show what Argentineans really believe about abortion. It puts to rest the myths and stereotypes that are passed around as fact by the church hierarchy. Legislators should take heed and understand that this is where the voters really are on these issues—the electorate supports access to abortion, voters know people who need abortion care and know people who have used abortion services,” said Jon O’Brien, the president of Catholics for Choice, which sponsored the survey.

In a country where some 75 percent of the population is Catholic, 70 percent of respondents rejected the idea that Catholics have a moral obligation to vote against candidates who support legal abortion, while nearly six in ten say that the bishops do not play an important role in their voting decisions. Instead, Argentineans’ beliefs are much more nuanced than the hierarchy’s flat-out rejection of reproductive choice.

The following is a more detailed look at the results.

  • A third of Argentineans (34 percent) tell us that they know someone who has had an abortion, including personal acquaintances such as a friend or neighbor (16 percent) and family members (7 percent), despite the fact that it is largely illegal and almost completely unobtainable in the country.
  • There is broad support for many components of the proposed legislation on abortion. A large majority favors abortion being legal when a woman’s health or life is at risk (81 percent), the pregnancy is a result of rape (80 percent) or the fetus has severe abnormalities (68 percent).
  • Nearly eight in ten (78 percent) of Argentineans support access to reproductive healthcare services for women. In addition, nearly eight in ten (78 percent) say they approve of the fact that women in Argentina have legal access to contraception, while only 17 percent oppose its legality.
  • Most Argentineans believe that the opinions of the Catholic bishops should not influence policymaking or voting. About six in ten say that the views of Catholic bishops are not important to their decision about whom to support (57 percent) and disagree that Catholic candidates have a religious obligation to vote in accordance with the Catholic bishops (63 percent). They also reject the idea that Catholics have a moral obligation to vote against candidates who support legal abortion (70 percent).

“Argentina offers hope that the factors which have so frequently held back efforts to decriminalize abortion in other countries—a conservative, politically active and influential Catholic hierarchy and lack of political will in support of abortion rights—can be effectively overcome in a region which continues to suffer from the effects of some of the most draconian restrictions on abortion in the world. I hope that the results of this poll encourage the Argentinean parliament to make safe abortion care more available for all women,” said CFC president, Jon O’Brien.

The telephone survey was based on a random probability sample of 1,002 respondents over the age of 18 in cities with a population of 50,000 or more and was conducted in Argentina from September 9th through 30th. The margin of sampling error at the 95 percent level of confidence is greater or less than 3.1 percentage points. A copy of the entire survey is available on the Catholics for Choice website. Lea y el informe en español.