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'I'm a Doctor, Not a Murderer': Argentinian Docs Vow to Go to Jail if Forced to Help with Abortions

08-01-2018

Hundreds of doctors in Argentina have staged anti-abortion protests as a bill to legalize it heads to that country's Senate next week.

They are vowing not to take human lives, no matter what it costs them, waving signs with powerful messages like: "I'm a doctor, not a murderer."

Officials at about 300 private hospitals and medical facilities have denounced the legislation which has already been passed by the lower house of the Argentine National Congress.

Argentina already allows abortion in cases of rape or risks to a woman's health. Proponents of the bill want to legalize elective abortions in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy, claiming it would reduce deaths among women.

Private hospitals object because the law would not allow them to opt out of performing abortions. And while individual doctors might be allowed to opt out, there are concerns that other confusing aspects of the law could make them vulnerable to prosecution and persecution for their beliefs.

"Doctors can't work under the threat of prison time," said Maria de los Angeles Carmona, head of gynecology at the state-run Eva Peron Hospital.

Critics, like Argentina's Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics Societies, say they're concerned that doctors who refuse to perform abortions on moral grounds might suffer professional discrimination. In fact, objectors would have to register and they're worried that could be used to "blacklist" them at hospitals.

"How far are we willing to go to? Jail," said Ernesto Beruti, chief of obstetrics at the Austral University Hospital. "Even if the law is passed, I'm not going to eliminate the life of a human being. The most important right is the right to live."

The highly respected Argentinian Academy of Medicine is fiercely opposing the legislation, issuing a statement that human life begins at conception and "to destroy a human embryo means impeding the birth of a human being."

"Nothing good can come when society chooses death as a solution," the academy said.

 

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