Federalism, two-level games and the politics of abortion rights implementation in subnational Argentina

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18/12/2018 12:00 am

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The implementation of the 2012 Argentinean Supreme Court landmark ruling, which declared abortion legal in all cases of rape and established standards of implementation of lawful abortions at all levels of government, shows an uneven pattern of compliance by subnational governments throughout the country. Based on a case-study of the implementation of the Court’s decision in the province of Salta, this article advances an explanation of mechanisms that can affect the definition and enforcement of abortion rights at the local level, in a federation. Drawing on Putnam’s concept of two-level games, it argues that, at critical junctures, local authorities and especially strong governors with presidential aspirations, may have electoral incentives at the national level to comply at least partially with national laws and judicial decisions which are contrary to their own ideological preferences and their local political allegiances. The study suggests that analyses of political opportunities for local reproductive rights activists in federal regimes should include the potential two-level games of local authorities, such as politicians with presidential aspirations, and judges who intend to pursue a career in national or international institutions. Through this analysis, the article intends to contribute to our understanding of the political determinants of subnational compliance with national abortion laws and court decisions in federal systems, and more generally, political factors and dynamics that shape inequities in the protection of women’s rights under federalism.

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