Spokesman for the International Association of Free thought
(IAFT) – (Argentina – Latin America)
About the voluntary termination of pregnancy in Argentina
IAFT: Can you introduce yourself?
Fernando Lozada: I am an atheist, a human rights activist. For about 15 years, I have been actively working for the advent of a society in which diversity would be a positive value. I am active in several organizations: Mar Del Plata Atheists, H.J.O.S (the sons and daughters of the missing during the last dictatorship in Argentina), the Voice of the Hedgehog (a radio program), the Front for diversity and Dissidence, the Argentina Coalition for a secular State and since 2012, I have been a spokesman for the IAFT.
IAFT: everybody knows the Chamber of the Deputies of Argentina has voted in favor of the legalization of abortion and that the Senate opposed it. Can you explain that?
F.L.: Reactionary and obscurantist powers have become allies. On one side, the traditional Roman Catholic, Apostolic Church has used all its economic power and its political connections to tip the scales, because it could not tolerate the legalization of the voluntary termination of pregnancy in the native country of the current pope, on the other side evangelic neo-Pentecostal movements have sent their activists to the street, they have spread on social networks and media, while mobilizing their own resources to organize billsticking and audio visual campaigns.
The senators of Northern Argentina have been submitted to strong pressure from the governors of the provinces where the Catholic Church has great influence, where it plays a very important political role. The vote of Parliament members has widely underestimated popular mobilization. In Buenos-Aires, more than a million demonstrators have gathered in favor of the law, women notably. Groups wrongly named “Pro Vida” have been insignificantly represented. The sheer size of the demonstration has helped to tip the scales especially to the side of undecided legislators.
Although the vote of the Senate represent almost 2 million citizens who were fighting for the legalization of abortion and waiting for the verdict in the street, clerical pressure was intense to the point of reversing initially positive votes. We know that phone calls and visits to senators’ offices have been akin to harassment.
At the same time, the Church had masses celebrated all over the country, in the presence of numerous civil servants who were asked to pronounce themselves against the bill.
IAFT: Which role have you and your association played in this campaign for freedom?
F.L.: Via the Argentina Coalition for a Secular State and all the organizations that are part of it since the date of its creation, that is to say for 8 years, we have supported the Campaign for the right to legal, safe and free abortion not only through public statements but also through our active presence in various demonstrations. Currently we strongly denounce religious groups’ operating modes, more particularly the Catholic Church; they are used to hinder women’s autonomy and particularly the right to own one’s own body. These late months we have succeeded in implementing the debate on a secular State in the society; we have been able to make the Catholic Apostolic Roman Church’s privileges visible.
IAFT: What are the consequences of this situation on the Catholic Church and other religions?
F.L.: When Bergolio (pope François) was the supreme reference of the Catholic Church in Argentina, a conflict burst out within the then government which allowed us to progress in secularism. Thus we obtained the law on egalitarian marriage, gender identity, assisted procreation, dying with dignity and integral sexual education. Unfortunately, when the Argentinean cardinal ascended the papal throne, the process was stopped. The role that is contrary to human rights, that is assumed by the Catholic institution and the pope in particular, when they compare feminism to Nazism, allowed several fronts through the political and social debate in favor of the legalization of abortion, to impulse initiatives in favor of the Strict separation of church and State. At present, several legislators present bills to get rid of clerical privileges.
IAFT: It seems that the consequences of this denial of democracy have caused a wave of apostasy and a demand for the Separation of Church and State in Argentina. Can you tell us more about it?
F.L.: On august 8, the day of the Senate vote, we initiated a national campaign of collective apostasy; we received, in front of the parliament, thousands of people willing to break with the Vatican institution. The event was repeated all over the country and covered by national and international media. More than 500 000 people turned up on the site, more than 10 000 forms were asked; on that day, “apostasy” was one of the words that was the more sought after on Google.
In our opinion, this is a political act, a way of publicly demonstrating our disagreement with misogynic, macho, discriminatory and obscurantist policies of the Roman Catholic Apostolic Church. It’s a matter of rejecting an institution which, in history, opposed the progress of human rights in our country and everywhere it is influential. For a lot of people this gesture is a sign of relief, an act which free them from unselected moral and institutional submission.
IAFT: Do you wish to add something for our readers?
F.L.: The Argentinean state is in principle secular, but the Roman Catholic Apostolic Church has known how to obtain privileges, notably during the various military coups. Some of them were formalized by decrees taken during dictatorships, but some others were established as usual practices: donations of real estate, restoration of temples, remissions of debts, grants, exemptions of taxes etc. we calculate that the amount of these liberalities is equivalent to a quarter of the public health budget.
Currently, some sectors of the political and religious world want to replace secularity by multi-sectarianism. A project has been presented in that sense by the President of the nation; it is a project that moreover introduces in the Penal Code some religious concepts among which profanation. We intensely work to thwart this maneuver, which would take us back in view of our final objective, that is to say the conquest of the absolute freedom of conscience for all citizens.
(Words taken down by Christian Eyschen and translated by LoÏck Gourdon and Françoise Rousseau)
Buenos Aires, august 14 2018