In Argentina, abortion is only legal in cases of rape or danger to a woman’s life and health. Beyond these exceptions, if a woman wants to have an abortion, she has to do it clandestinely.
According to the annual report of Argentina’s Ministry of Health, in 2016, 245 pregnant women died from various causes. 17.6% of these were the result of a “pregnancy that terminated in abortion,” which places abortion as the main individual cause of maternal mortality in Argentina.
The following text was presented at the first ZADIG Argentina Conference by Matias Meichtri Quintans, a participant of La Patria del Sinthoma, one of the four groups known as ‘knots’ of ZADIG Agentina.
Over a month ago in Argentina’s Congress, the green light was given for the debate on the voluntary termination of pregnancy, thus placing a long-standing demand on the political agenda. Since then, we have heard many proponents of this debate take a stand “on the side of life,” forcing the discussion into a simple opposition: for or against abortion. In fact, abortion (on certain grounds) has been legal in our country since 1921.
To this day, the debate has followed a circuit. Determining whether abortion is legal or illegal opens the discussion about whether abortion is homicide. This debate, in turn, depends on another debate: whether the embryo is a person. Moreover, another criterion needs to be established: when does life begin?
In the midst of these debates, monopolized mainly by scientism and human rights, an accusation arose. The writer, Claudia Piñeiro, in her appearance at Congress, denounced the self-styled pro-life groups by pointing out that they have taken ownership of the word life: “They have stolen that word from us.”
This struggle over the word life fuels and displaces the famous Argentine rift, this time setting the life to be born against those other lives that are put at risk and are lost clandestinely.
Both positions call for expanding the rights and bio-rights of those they protect without taking into account a substance, which psychoanalysis notes as the main protagonist of malaise in civilization: the place of jouissance and its insertion “in the register of law.”
This exposes the typical movement in our societies that pushes a multiplicity of jouissances to find their place in the social sphere in the form of the legal right to protection.
The slogan “my body, my rights” is perhaps the most eloquent example of how the women’s movement contributes to the demand that every person’s mode of jouissance be considered a right.
The paradox lies in the fact that jouissance sets bodies against a real, a hole, which causes any representational attempt, either individual or collective, to fail. In this regard, psychoanalysis made an early contribution by stating that the body always falls short of absorbing jouissance.
Jacques Lacan paved the way when he interpreted from Ernest Jones’ text on symbolism, a list of primary ideas that designate, “the points at which the subject disappears under the being of the signifier.” Jones’ list includes the idea of being oneself, being a father, being born, being loved, and being dead. According to Lacan, these five primary ideas are “the points of the subject’s umbilication in the cuts made by the signifier.” Those umbilication marks, where the value of symbolism is null, give life to an enjoying body against the background of a living organism.
The demand for the right of women to terminate an unwanted pregnancy is part of their historic struggle for the right of speech. This struggle to make their voices heard has always involved the fact of “penetrating the sacred domain and always marked by the fluctuating boundaries of the permitted and the forbidden.”
Their demand today not only challenges that sacred injunction, which the Catholic Church protects: do not touch (noli tangere) the real of nature, but it raises a question about the consequences of this “rhetorical agitation of the signifier that is no longer framed, as Jacques-Alain Miller reflected, in a weft of fixed signifiers.”
So one may wonder about the consequences for the body of women, not because abortion has been an unprecedented practice so far, but because the way in which the debate has come under the spotlight shows the reduction of the body to the action of its organs.
This debate is not about the life of the “cell body” because, as Lacan states in RSI, “It is not self-evident, we should say, that a body is living. So that what best attests to the fact that it is living, is precisely this mens in connection with which, more exactly that I introduced along the path, the journeying of mental defectiveness. It is not given to all bodies.”
Mental defectiveness is not constituted in the fact that civilization shares the same universe, but in that each parlêtre, reduced to his or her body, “inhabits that Universe that is nothing but his or her vile world.”
Lacan’s idea is that we know nothing about life, “that which reproduces itself to preserve itself.” Science does nothing but unveil its real character as impossible to symbolize.
When Lacan draws the Borromean rings of string in RSI, he is thinking about a topology in which he situates meaning between Imaginary and Symbolic. The other two fields that unfold between the strings with respect to the central point are two zones of jouissance. One of these two jouissances “could be defined as the jouissance of life.” That is the life an analyst will seek to defend.
Images from the rally organized by the women’s movement on June 4, 2018
 Miller, J-A., El lugar y el lazo, Paidós, Bs As, 2013, p. 82.
 Lacan, J., In memory of Ernest Jones, in Ecrits. The First Complete Edition in English, W.W. Norton & Co., London:New York, 2006, p. 594.
 Ibid., p. 595.
 Duby, G. and Perrot M., Escribir la historia de las mujeres, in Historia de las Mujeres, Vol. I, Ed Taurus Buenos Aires, 2000, p. 25.
 Miller, J-A., Presentation of the theme of the IXth Congress of the WAP. Available on-line: http://www.congresamp2014.com/en/template.php?file=Textos/Presentation-du-theme_Jacques-Alain-Miller.html
 Lacan, J., Seminar XXII, RSI, Lesson of 10/12/74, Unpublished.
 Lacan, J., The Third, 1st November 1974, Rome. [The phrase “vile world” has been used to reflect Lacan’s equivocal terms “monde” and “immonde” in French.]
 Lacan, J., Conference in Louvain, 13th October 1972.
 Lacan, J., Seminar XXII, RSI, Lesson of 10/12/74, Unpublished.