Argentine President Alberto Fernandez announced on Tuesday he was sending a new bill on legalizing abortion to Congress, re-opening a debate that has bitterly divided the traditionally Catholic nation.
The announcement set off celebrations among thousands of people outside the Congress building rallying in support of a plan to impose extra taxes on the wealthy to subsidize Argentina's creaking health care system
Fernandez made the announcement in a video message on his Twitter account, saying the bill would ensure that all women have access to the right to comprehensive health care.
However Argentine society is deeply divided over the question of abortion.
Following years of demonstrations, Congress began a historic debate in 2018 under then-president Mauricio Macri that ended with the Chamber of Deputies voting to legalize abortion, only for the Senate to reject it.
Fernandez promised in March to present a new bill to legalize abortion but that was put on hold when the country went into lockdown over the coronavirus.
Fernandez, who ousted Macri in elections last year, said a separate bill would help poorer families to avoid having to resort to abortion for economic reasons.
That would provide a 1,000-day insurance policy, with the aim of strengthening comprehensive care during pregnancy and for children in the first years of life.
In Pope Francis's homeland, abortion is punishable by up to four years in prison, and allowable only in cases of rape or if there is a risk to the life of the mother.
Lawmakers began debating on Tuesday the imposition of a 2% to 3,5% tax on more than 9,000 of Argentina's largest fortunes, expected to provide some US$ 2 billion for health care and other projects to help families hit by the Covid-19 crisis.
Government insists it is not a tax but a solidarity contribution from the haves for the haves not and will be implemented an only time. However the opposition and the private sector argue it will make locals twice before increasing production and will definitively scare overseas.
The bill's discussion takes place at a very special time, when an IMF mission is visiting Argentina to consider better terms for the country to return some US$ 44 billion loaned to the previous administration of president Mauricio Macri. The IMF is demanding an increase in revenue to address a gargantuan budget deficit financed by money printing which had led to a run from the Argentine currency to the US dollar.
Economists also point out that the expected revenue will be equivalent to one month's money printing and that in most cases the bill will mean double taxing, banned constitutionally and thus the dispute will end in the courts.
Argentine central bank, running out of Pesos, has been forced to order 1,000 Pesos bills printed in Spain.