As much as I like dystopian tales, this one will end happily. I bet you.
The times when the elderly would sit and rant about ‘how astray the youth is’ are over, or at least they should be. The youngsters are teaching us all a lesson in democracy and, more importantly, in empathy.
Early on 2018, the Argentine government announced that the issue of legal abortion was finally going to be revisited in Congress. Current laws allow the procedure only in cases of rape, or when the health of the impregnated is at risk. The fact that hundreds of women die as a result of clandestine procedures, among other reasons, make the revision of this law somewhat of an imperative.
The pro-choice cause has been traditionally led by Human Rights and feminist movements – both strong in Argentina, and even more since the advent of democracy. In the last three to five years the feminist movement has grown exponentially, but it’s not its growth I find most remarkable. The diversity of the movement is the one thing that really catches the eye. Along with the traditional feminist mentors – many as elderly as 88 – then there came the twenty-somethings and even the teenagers. And alas, not all are women.
The new bill would have expanded abortion rights to allow women to end a pregnancy in the first 14 weeks, but it did not get past Senate. Argentina will keep on belonging to the list of countries where abortion is punished with jail, such as in Perú, Bolivia, and Mexico — at least until 2019, when the law will be discussed again in the House of Representatives.
In the meantime, the activists remain far from dormant. Everywhere you go you will find the Green bandana, the national symbol for the legal, safe and free abortion. Tied to wrists, as a scarf, but mostly tied to backpacks – for the students are the biggest supporters of the cause. If Argentina has made a step towards becoming the most female progressive country, much of the credit needs to go to the young. In fact, the very, very young.
People are dying violent deaths all over the world, due to many causes. One is badly performed abortions in unsafe, non-sterile conditions. Another one is gun violence, an issue that does not seem to go away in the United States. Gun violence endangers the whole American society, but students face the worst part: one school shooting every seven days, stats point out. So, it is no surprise that students took the matter into their own hands, and the demonstrations carried out but teens and young adults have increased exponentially as of late.
Between the pro-choice and the anti-gun kids, many parallels can be drawn. The first one I can think of is something the very protesters are saying: “We are too young to be enduring these issues, and we are here to make change happen.” The banners protesters are carrying are more than eloquent, so I had a hard time selecting just two.
Not only does the new generation have to endure threats that were already there — decades before they were even born — Conservatives like to undermine these movements pointing out that “they’re just kids, what can they possibly know about such serious stuff”.
For starters, they are victims — the raped tweens being pushed towards motherhood, the sophomores who did not live to see graduation day.
It is true, these kids are way younger than the Woodstock generation, but ‘kids these days’ are also way ahead than Gen X. Blame it on the Internet!
Jokes aside, the young ones have risen the bar to expectations that are seldom not met by political actors. Young activists discuss, debate and come up with suggestions, not only with demands, but they are informed, educated and organized.
They are finally visible.
A characteristic worth belaboring is the diversity of these young movements. The LGBT community has a strong presence, and there is a place for everybody willing to contribute.
The day after the treatment of the abortion law, the main newspapers accused the Argentine Senate of not being up to modern times and of the people. Spain’s El Pais. UK’s The Guardian. France’s Le Monde.
To think that international press ‘knows better’ than us about our own issues is a dangerous game to play, so I am merely stating the fact that this issue received a surprising acclaim.
But yes, the new abortion bill affair has attracted worldwide attention.
Among the supporters are The Handmaid’s Tale author Margaret Atwood, Anjelica Houston, Susan Sarandon, Amnesty International, and NBA Latin America. Demonstrations and sit-ins were held all around the world.
What are we to learn about these two isolated cases?
That they are not, by any means, isolated. That it is the duty of those in power to listen to the needs of people, no matter how young they are. The Political Class does not need to do this out of ideological affinity, not even empathy. If they are to be smart, they have to be able to read the flows and ebbs of emerging social currents.
Are politicians up to it?
Only time will tell.
In the meantime, the dead can wait. But not the alive.