21 Nov

#DebateEnRedes:‌ The protocol on abortion has divided Twitter users, even within Cambiemos

Por Ariel Riera, Celeste Gómez Wagner and Mariela García

Updated 27 de December, 2019 at 1:03 pm

If you have only a few seconds, read these lines:

  • The most used hashtags opposed (“#BajenElProtocolIlegal” and “#NoFueLey”) and supported (“#AbortoLegalYa” and “#SeraLey”) this measure.
  • Officialism’s players have appeared in communities separated by their opinion about abortion.
  • There were a homogeneous group rejecting abortion and several connected pro-abortion groups.

On November 20, the Health Department of Argentine, headed by Adolfo Rubinstein, published in the Official Gazette an update of the “Protocol for integral care of people entitled to legally interrupt pregnancy”, of 2015. This new version particularly states that, to interrupt pregnancy in the cases abortion is not punishable (when the mother’s life or health is at risk or she was raped), women only needed to inform their consent and sign a certified affidavit. This request cannot be denied by any health institution (either public or private), and care should be provided within 10 days after the request.

The head of department used his Twitter account to give the news, which sparked discontent in officialist media vehicles. For example, Federico Pinedo, Senate’s acting president, said on Twitter that the resolution was “unfortunate and clearly unconstitutional” in his opinion. In the afternoon, there was some information about a possible request for resignation by Rubinstein, who has remained in his position until the publication of this note. In addition, the ministers of Education and Health and Social Development, Alejandro Finocchiaro and Carolina Stanley, respectively, stated the update “will be revoked” tomorrow.

Among the questions asked on Twitter, there were doubts about whether Rubinstein had the power to publish the protocol in the Official Gazette without the approval of the ministry he responds to. The Decree-law no. 19.549/72 regulates the administrative procedures of the national State and indicates that any State decision requires the prior opinion of the permanent legal department of each area. This measure monitors legality, with the aim to verify, for example, if an entity is competent in relation to what it is regulating.

The previous opinion about the protocol (signed by the Head of Legal Affairs of the Ministry of Health), with which Chequeado agreed, concluded that, among other things, Rubinstein is authorized to sign the measure according to the 2018 decree, where the Ministry of Health passed to the category of a department responding to the Ministry of Social Development. It emphasized that the head of the Health Department must “work in the elaboration of standards to regulate […] quality in health care” and “in the provision of rules and procedures to ensure the quality of health care services.”

> Check the document

Chequeado analyzed via Trendsmap (a tool that allows the analysis of large volumes of tweets) how Twitter users discussed this issue from Wednesday 7:00 AM to Thursday 3:00 PM.

During this period, 120,700 tweets were posted, and the peak of activity was recorded at 7:00 PM on Wednesday, when the possibility of Macri vetoing the protocol started to spread more strongly on Twitter.

2019 ILE Protocol (Legal Interruption of Pregnancy) on Twitter in Argentina

Source: Elaborated by Chequeado based on Trendsmap and on the search for keywords about the 2019 ILE Protocol published on November 20, 2019 in the Official Gazette of Argentina.

The most used hashtags reflected supporting and opposing views about the protocol and abortion. The top-ranked hashtag was “#BajenElProtocoloIlegal” (“annul the illegal protocol,” with 5%), followed by “#AbortoLegalYa” (“Legal abortion now,” with 3.2%), “#SeraLey” (“It will become law,” with 2.4%), “#NoFueLey” (“It was not law,” with 2.3%), and “#ILE” (2%). The most used terms were “protocol” (40%), “abortion” (34%), “macri” (17%), “government” (14%), “punishable” (13%), and “new” (11%).

Meanwhile, the green heart (associated with the claim for legal, safe and free abortion) was the most used emoji (3.3%), whereas the blue heart (related to the position against the decriminalization of abortion) appeared in less than 1% of messages.

Lastly, the most shared message on Twitter was posted by @leandrocahn, CEO of Fundación Huésped, supporting the protocol update. “The protocol signed by @RubinsteinOk responded to the Criminal Code, the FAL resolution, international treaties, the new Civil Code, the act of protection of patients’ rights, the act of full protection of children and adolescents. All this has been vetoed by @mauriciomacri,” he stated, and it was retweeted 1.500 times.

One of the most mentioned message belonged to @rubinsteinOk, announcing the approval of the protocol update. It was also one of the most answered posts.

Based on retweets, Chequeado analyzed via Gephi how communities grouped on Twitter concerning this subject (see here). The black bubble is at one end, and it shows users against abortion. These users include, for example, @vickyvillarruel, president of the association CELTYV about the victims of “terrorism of guerrillas,” and @juanjomalvinas, the official account of the former presidential candidate Juan José Gómez Centurión, who has also manifested his position against the voluntary interruption of pregnancy.

Another community comprises users related to Cambiemos and against the measure (in purple). The central player is @elcoya1977, who usually tweets defending Macri’s management and has supported “the two lives.” Also in this group of connected users, there is @pinedofederico, who criticized Rubinstein and thanked president Macri for vetoing the measure.

Source: Chequeado

On the other hand, there are three bubbles supporting the legalization of abortion; they are less closed and interact with each other. The blue bubble has Daniel Lipovetzky (@lipovetzky) as the most promoted player, a national congressman of Cambiemos supporting legal abortion. This community is the least homogeneous, without clearly defined authorities. It comprises journalists like @Sietecase, @nbg_, and @gsued, or the lawyer @gracepenafort, who, among others, defends the former vice president Amado Boudou.

The green community has @leandrocahn (CEO of Fundación Huésped, an entity that defends the right to sexual health and disease control) as the most retweeted account. Other very influential authorities were the users that promoted the Act of Voluntary Interruption of Pregnancy (IVE), like @Marian_Carbajal, a feminist activist and journalist, and @anaecorrea, author of the book “Somos Belén”, among others.

Lastly, the orange bubble is organized around @RubinsteinOk and other users close to radicalism, such as the national congresswoman of UCR (Radical Civic Union) @CarlaCarrizoAR, the senator-elect in Buenos Aires Martín Lousteau (@gugalusto), and the radical leader @SanzErnesto. These are the members of the coalition Cambiemos supporting the measure.

The divisions within parties concerning abortion are not new, and they have appeared in a debate in the Congress about the IVE act. For example, in the Senate, no bloc voted unanimously, except for the Frente Progressista and the provincial parties. The same happened with congressmen; only Frente de Izquierda voted in favor of abortion unanimously.

* The Digital Democracy Room is a project of FGV DAPP in Brazil in partnership with Chequeado, Linterna Verde and Ojo Público. It’s goal is to monitor and analyze the digital conversations regarding the electoral context.

The analysis is available the website of Chequeado here.