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  • Nora Cortiñas (L) at a protest against forced disappearances in Buenos Aires, September 2017.

    Nora Cortiñas (L) at a protest against forced disappearances in Buenos Aires, September 2017. | Photo: EFE

Published 11 August 2018

"In a health law like this, religion has nothing to do with it," said Nora Cortiñas after the Argentine Senate rejected the Abortion Bill.

One of the founding members of Argentina's Mothers of Plaza de Mayo movement, Nora Cortiñas, has vowed to quit the church after the Argentinian Senate rejected the abortion bill, saying: "I'm very sad because I'm Catholic and I'll apostasize."

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Every Thursday, the mothers meet in the iconic Plaza de Mayo square as a memorial ritual, to keep their struggle alive and show the government they won't back down. "I want to reject [the Catholic Church]," Cortiñas told the most recent meeting.

"I believe in God because without it I wouldn't be here, all of us, because there's a God, but I'm ashamed of the Catholic Church," she continued.

"My grandmother was born in a church's bell tower and she used to say we have to do like the priests: 'Do what I say but not what I do.' She used to say that 120 years ago. Now they're doing what nobody must do, getting in the lives of the others and telling lies and being hypocritical. I'm ashamed."

The Catholic Church is being blamed by feminist movements across the country for influencing the Senate's decision, which ruled against the abortion bill on August 9 with 38 to 31 votes, despite it being already approved by the lower house.

Shortly after the bill was rejected, the Argentine Coalition for a Secular State and other social organizations installed tables near the Congress, inviting people to apostatize from the Catholic Church. Some media reported that thousands were queueing up to formally renounce the Church.

Cortiñas then asked if those present knew about the rule of the Catholic Church during the Argentinian dictatorship, remembering the priests used to "bless the arms with which our daughters and sons were tortured and then look somewhere else."

"They put up a team of Catholic nuns to receive the babies that were stolen from captive mothers, pregnant. The nuns were a bridge, giving them [the babies] to the families of the military, police, business people.

"They used to take the baby's name away, its last name, the identity. They thought this was forever. The work of the grandmothers has slowly –because the judges never cared a lot – recovered their identities and return them to their legitimate families, but the Church also knew about that."

The Mothers of Plaza de Mayo organizations are united in their struggle to find out what happened to the thousands of young people murdered and children stripped of their original families during the dictatorship of Jorge Rafael Videla. Many were given away to accomodated families close to the regime, living their whole lives with people responsible for the murder or torture of their own biological families.

Now, the Senate – where there is a predominance of representatives of provinces with strong influence of the Catholic Church – has rejected the abortion bill, under the slogan 'We need to save both lives.'

"In a health law like this, religion has nothing to do with it... and then this Church says we need to save both lives. And the babies, born every day in our country, are forgotten by the Church, living in poverty," Cortiñas said.

The bill guaranteed the possibility of aborting up to week 14 of pregnancy within the public health system for free, something that is currently allowed only in cases of rape and risk to the mother.

But Cortiñas said she wanted to rescue a part of the Church, the one that belongs to the poor and is represented by a few humble bishops and priests.

"Let's be clear: this is not about revenge, we must remain in the struggle. And all these young people that went out to the streets in the rain, we must walk with them, support them and ask them to walk with us in other struggles, to combat hunger, to combat the brutal unemployment."

Cortiñas is one of the leading figures of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo Founding Line, a splinter group created by the founding members of the original movement after political differences with the main group.


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