The Symphony of Protest: Argentina’s 2018 Abortion Bill Protests Through a Musical Perspective

In the majority of Latin American countries, abortion is either illegal or only allowed in specific cases (OxResearch Daily Brief Service, 2018). In Argentina, until January 24th, 2021, abortion was only legal if, according to the penal code of 1921 (including its reformed version of 2012), it avoided a peril for the life or health of the mother, the pregnancy was caused by rape, or the woman was mentally disabled (Asia News Monitor, 2018). In all other cases, it was punishable with up to four years of imprisonment (Tarducci, 2018).


The March 6th, 2018 national campaign for legal, safe, and free abortion in Argentina presented for the seventh’s time its bill for a voluntary interruption of pregnancy (Feletti et al., 2018). The chamber of deputies approved it the morning of June 14th, 2018, but on August 9th, 2018, it did not reach the majority in the Senate (BBC News Mundo, 2018). The bill was therefore rejected. Despite its rejection, a massive social movement was reinforced from these series of events, giving voice to the movements ‘Ni Una Menos’ [not one less] and to the ‘Campaña Nacional por el Aborto Legal, Seguro y Gratuito’ [National campaign for legal, safe and free abortion] (Campaña Nacional por el Aborto Legal, Seguro y Gratuito, 2018). The protest in 2018 took different forms and one of them materialized through music. Multiple songs proliferated and defended the protest movements.



Figure 1: 8 March 2018



“[I]f politics is about determining who has the right to speak, be heard or be seen, then contemporary art of political nature needs to be understood in the context of how, through various tactics and strategies, it disturbs, disrupts and re-imagines and expands engagement with the political” (Downey, 2014, p. 24). The contemporary art of focus here is music. Human beings have always attributed to music an expressive function and for this reason, no important social mobilization has seemed to happen without musical practices and chores (Traïni, 2008). Music is at the heart of the protest, its devices are seized when the interest is in transmitting information of a protesting nature. In fact, “while the most culpable pamphlet exerts its bad influence only to a narrow circle, the song, a thousand times more contagious, can infect even the air we breathe” (Traïni, 2018, p. 75). Musical performances are powerful auxiliaries to protest action, which is why their analysis is worth it. Moreover, Traïni (2018) attributes to music the function of politicizing the socialization of young generations. Interestingly, in this case study, it is Argentinian youth who have been the protesting majority, pushing in favor of the right of abortion. Perhaps music has had an effective role in politicizing these young individuals. If Argentinian singers got the attention of the younger generations, it is also true that they are young artists; consequently, it is most probably a mutual reinforcement.


An example of a young militant artist who has taken part in the protest movements of 2018 is Mora Navarro. About a month after the presentation of the abortion bill, she released her song Libres (Mendoza, 2017). Mora, in an interview, said she wrote this song because the realities that Argentinian women live through are horrible, and she believes that slowly, by fighting collectively, women will be able to change it (Mendoza, 2017). Her song denounces the harassing, insults, and femicides women have to bear in their daily lives.


Mora’s lyrics report these main themes affecting women and add the fight which women must carry on for legalizing abortion:


“No quiero correr más/Por mis hermanas voy a luchar/ […] /Porque vivas nos quiero, libres, sin miedo/ Vivas nos quiero, libres, sin miedo de ser lo que quieras ser/ Voy a vestirme como quiera, con jean o con pollera/Y voy a luchar por el aborto legal/Para que mis sororas no mueran más en manos de este sistema que nos condena/Vamos a gritar en nombre de las que ya no están” [I don't want to run anymore/I'm going to fight for my sisters/ […] /Because I want us alive, free, without fear/ I want us alive, free, without fear of being who I want to be/ I'm going to dress as I want, with jeans or with a skirt/And I am going to fight for legal abortion/So that my sisters no longer die in the hands of this system that condemns us/We are going to shout on behalf of those who are no longer here] (Letras Libres Mora Navarro).


Mora is here inscribing her production to the side of those who do not have the power of speech, or, moreover, that do not have it individually, those whose lives are ignored. She wants women to be alive, free, and without fear of being who they are. The singer tries to elevate women from their subordinate position in society. Mora is undertaking a form of poetic popular action, she is creating memorable forms, which use memory and constitute a means to apprehend reality, negotiate with it, and transfigure it. She deals with a subject's actuality; this is, the femicide happening in Argentina. The popularity of the song and the power of its lyrics create political action that results in direct political confrontations to the government in place. Reality takes shape under the artistic form of a song. Abortion is explicitly stated, and she invites women to fight for the right to abort; the musical words orient an objective that accentuates mobilization.



Figure 2: Mora Navarro



Mora is one of the many young artists who, through music, has protested for legalizing abortion. The most important illumination the songs created during the protest period was social decriminalization; abortion became a subject the society wanted to debate. Singers, through contributing to the movement from their art sphere, manifested their support for the legislation, thus joining historical women activists. By including different spheres of discussion for abortion, as the musical one, women achieved a transversal leadership, which neutralized social differences, ideologies, and sometimes even religion (Levin, 2018). Today, in 2022, abortion in Argentina is legal, as the law was passed on January 24th, 2021 (Boletín Oficial de la República Argentina). Music as a form of protest has surely assisted the passing of this law by enhancing the pro-abortion protests movements.



Reference List


Asia News Monitor (8 August 2018). Argentina: Abortion bill galvanizes Argentina’s youth to fight. https://search.proquest.com/docview/2084394877?accountid=17194


BBC News Mundo (9 agosto 2018). Argentina: el Senado rechaza la nueva ley de aborto. https://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias-america-latina-45124522


Campaña Nacional por el Aborto Legal, Seguro y Gratuito (2 junio 2018). http://www.abortolegal.com.ar/hoy-mas-que-nunca-ni-una-menos-por-aborto-clandestino/


Downey, A. (2014). Art and politics now. London, UK: Themes & Hudson.


Feletti, K. & Prieto, S. (2018). Configuraciones de la laicidad en los debates por la legalización del aborto en la Argentina: discursos parlamentarios y feministas (2015-2018), Salud Colectiva, Vol. 14(3), 405-423


Juliana Mendoza (6 Junio 2017). Libres, la cruda y hermosa canción que denuncia la violencia contra las mujeres. https://www.lanacion.com.ar/sociedad/libres-la-cruda-y-hermosa-cancion-que-denuncia-la-violencia-contra-las-mujeres-nid2031032


Levin, S. (2018). ¿Salud sexual y salud reproductiva sin libertad ?: El conflicto por el aborto en Argentina, Salud Colectiva, Vol. 14(3), 377-389


Mora Navarro. Letras Libres – Mora Navarro. https://www.letras.com/mora-navarro/libres/


OxResearch Daily Brief Service (18 June 2018). ARGENTINA: Abortion bill may pass but carries costs. https://search.proquest.com/docview/2056401325?ac


Tarducci, M. (2018), Escenas claves de la lucha por el derecho al aborto en Argentina, Salud Colectiva, Vol. 14(3), 425-432


Traïni, C. (2018). La musique en colère. Paris, FR : Les Presses de Science Po.


Image References


Global Voices (8 March 2018). As Women March in Argentina, the Country Debates Legalizing Abortion (https://globalvoices.org/2018/03/08/as-women-march-in-argentina-the-country-debates-legalizing-abortion/)


Mora Navarro. Libres (song cover) https://moranavarro.bandcamp.com/track/libres




Author Photo

Altea Vaccaro

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