"All life is worth." "Let's save the two lives." "Jesus is the way". These slogans could be read among the hundreds of thousands of people who on August 4 occupied the widest avenue in Buenos Aires, on July 9, to demonstrate against the decriminalization of abortion. That multitudinous act was organized by the evangelical churches and increased the visibility of this religion with which at least one in ten Argentines are identified.
Evangelicals reject the legalization of abortion for, for the second consecutive year, one of the slogans of the mobilization called for this March 8 in Argentina. Allies to the Catholic Church, they press to block the advance of the feminist agenda. They have a growing political influence, but they are far from being decisive, as in neighboring Brazil.
"Jesus was the one who put the woman up, Christians are defenders of the role of women, it is the beauty that God made and attacking it is treacherous, but it should not be confused with gender ideology or political character. past women used International Women's Day to mobilize in favor of abortion and that is not right, we believe in equality of wages, of dealing with men and we are against abuse, but in favor of abortion, " says Rubén Proietti, president of the Christian Alliance of Evangelical Churches of Argentina (ACIERA).
This alliance, which brings together more than 15,000 evangelical churches in the country, will celebrate its own International Women's Day on March 15. "We are going to recognize women who do good to others, who fight, who do good to life, sometimes they put us as if we were anti-feminists, but let's go to the Bible and we'll see that women are recognized there," continues Proietti. the act that will celebrate next week.
In 2008, when the first Survey on beliefs and religious attitudes in Argentina, 9% of the population declared themselves evangelical, almost four million people, compared to 76% of Catholics, about 32 million. This year will be the second. Proietti says his number has doubled. Marcos Carbonelli, a member of the research team that carried out the initial survey and prepared the new one, believes that they have grown little, but he asks to wait for the results, which will be known in the second half of the year.
"Evangelicals are a minority in Argentina, which is a country marked historically by Catholicism." The arrival of Catholicism in the political class has a great historical advantage and article 2 of the Constitution states that the Argentine State is committed to sustaining the cult. Catholic, "says Carbonelli, Conicet researcher specializing in the links between religion and politics.
Descendant of Protestantism, the evangelical religion began to take force in the southern country from the 80s. Modest garages and imposing buildings have become temples. With an imaginary closer to everyday life than Catholicism and full of images of a living God who heals, excites and speaks directly to men without the need for intermediaries, evangelism has been stealing faithful.
Both religions have their roots in the poorest neighborhoods, where they fill the deficiencies of the State. "They have been working socially for years in problematic drug use, in soup kitchens, on-the-job workshops … and that has legitimized them very much socially," explains Carbonelli. Last September, evangelical representatives met with the Argentine president, Mauricio Macri, and the Buenos Aires governor, María Eugenia Vidal, to coordinate the food assistance plan for the most vulnerable families. That meeting sparked speculation about the strength of the evangelical vow and the attempts of Macrismo to win it.
"If you vote for abortion, I do not vote for you", could be read on the placards of some protesters who marched on 9 de Julio Avenue. That day those present reproached Macri for having enabled the debate on abortion in Congress without mentioning it during the electoral campaign. Even so, they were aware that almost all the political formations counted in their ranks with supporters and detractors of the legalization, which was rejected the following week in the Senate.
"It is not a triumph because it continues to be done, what we have to fight against is abortion and we are going to reinforce practical actions with telephone lines and the commitment of congregations throughout the country so that pregnant women who do not want to have an abortion can receive help, as diapers, food, psychological containment … ", says Proietti.
"The religious variable does not enter the dark room," says Carbonelli. This researcher attributes this to the fact that political identities in Argentina remain strong and there are also other more decisive concerns when deciding to vote, such as the accounts to reach the end of the month and the personal evaluation of how it went with the previous government. and how he thinks he will go with the next one. Aware of their weakness in the polls, they bet on social work in the neighborhoods, education, preaching and sporadic mobilization in the streets.
Proietti, who also chairs the Latin Evangelical Alliance, predicts that they will reappear if Congress reopens the debate on abortion. If approved, they will continue to preach against, as they do with homosexual marriage or gender identity. "The law must be accepted, but for us there is a family model, which is man, woman and children and that is what is preached," he insists. The same thing happens with the law of integral sexual education, approved 12 years ago. "First it must be in the home, but when there are homes that are so shaky and frayed, biological sex education, the natural one, the usual one, must also be taught in schools. I do not agree that gender is a social construction and that someone who born with male sex can be female and vice versa, we have all the artillery against that, "he continues.
The alliance of evangelicals and Catholics against the expansion of sexual and reproductive rights clashes with a feminist wave, led by young women, which took power in 2015 with the fight against femicides and grew in 2018 with the demand for legal, safe and free abortion . The great local political parties are in the midst of that pulse.