Passing the Green Torch To Our Sisters: How the Green Wave Took Over the U.S.

The Green Wave movement played a major role in securing the right to abortion in countries across Latin America. It’s time for to paint the U.S. green.

A protester wearing a green bandana raises a fist at a protest against the U.S. Supreme Court’s June ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, on July 4, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (David McNew / Getty Images)

The Supreme Court has officially overturned Roe v. Wade, eliminating the constitutional right to legal abortion and opening doors for restrictive laws in states across the country. In response, thousands of people have been gathering to show their support for abortion rights.

As countless signs across the marches and rallies call for bans off our bodies and to keep abortion legal, a symbol that is new to many in this country, but beloved to the three of us, has unmistakably emerged all over the streets: a sea of green bandanas. The Green Wave, which had begun in Argentina—and then spread across all of Latin America—is now here, as a rallying cry to protect abortion. 

These pañuelos are our uniform, the distinctive badge that unites us in solidarity on the front lines to protect abortion in our homeland. Today, we wear them on U.S. soil and hand them out to the crowds as we march hand in hand through the streets to do what we do best—fight back against the impossible and win. 

The pañuelo verde emerged as a symbol of the reproductive rights movement in 2003 in Argentina as the emblem of the National Campaign for the Right to Legal, Safe and Free Abortion, a civil society collective joining forces in support of abortion law reform, and it rapidly became the central emblem of the cry for legal abortion. The green was not selected at random: in the Argentine imaginary, green represents liveliness and health, and the campaign was sending the loud and clear message that abortion is health care and for so many a lifeline. By 2020, and every week for over two years, hundreds—then thousands, then millions—of us poured into the streets outside of Congress, to demand our fundamental freedom to control our life and our bodies. 

On Dec. 30, 2021, the Argentine Congress passed a bill to legalize abortion until 14 weeks, a historic move in a region with some of the world’s most restrictive abortion laws. Pro-choice demonstrators wait for the result of the vote. (Marcelo Endelli / Getty Images)

Whether we were tying them over our mouths clamoring for change, wearing them around our lifted fists, or attaching them to our purses or backpacks in more subtle displays of solidarity, our presence was ever-growing. Soon enough, the Marea Verde, or Green Wave, was born, and the tide was too strong to ignore. Every day, women of all walks of life wore them proudly to school, on public transportation, to work, at social gatherings, and every display was an act of resistance. 

The wave spilled across borders from Argentina into Latin America, among them Mexico and Colombia, encompassing the three countries from which us three hail—all of which, in less than two years, affirmed the fundamental right to an abortion. And finally, it’s reached the United States—the country one of us now calls home. 

As leaders of the movement, nothing makes us prouder than to now see our sisters in the U.S. wearing the pañuelo verde. Its emergence around the world makes clear that not only is our enemy the same, but more importantly, that feminism and the fight for abortion rights is a transnational movement rooted in solidarity beyond borders. 

While it was born in Argentina, the pañuelo verde doesn’t belong to us Argentines, or us Mexicans, or us Latin Americans: it is the political symbol of our collective fight, and it belongs to every person, everywhere, who fights for the right of every pregnant person to have access to a legal and safe abortion, should they want it.

The Green Wave’s emergence around the world makes clear that not only is our enemy the same, but more importantly, that feminism and the fight for abortion rights is a transnational movement rooted in solidarity beyond borders. 

A 2017 March for Safe Abortion in Argentina. (International Women’s Health Coalition / Flickr)

Some will attempt to divide us by calling this appropriation, and we’re here to push back and loudly state that political solidarity is not theft. This fight is not ours alone. Our coalition is diverse, our movement contains multitudes — joining as a united front to fight a patriarchal system that is hellbent on oppressing women and people who can get pregnant. And if our recent victories in Latin America have taught us anything, it’s that we must never allow confusion to divide and demobilize us, for our strength lies in our unity. 

The restrictions rapidly spreading across the U.S. have borrowed directly from the anti-abortion legislation playbook in Latin America. And we know the havoc they will bring all too well. It’s clear that our oppressors know no border. But the good news is, neither does our resistance. 

The Green Wave played a major role in securing the legal and social victories in Latin America to ensure access to abortion as health care, and reproductive rights as human rights. 

As this country mourns the loss of our most basic freedoms, we are here to offer a message of hope: we will win if we stand together. There are simply too many of us not to. And somewhere to channel your rage: join us in the streets, together, let’s paint this country green. 

Sign and share Ms.’s relaunched “We Have Had Abortions” petition—whether you yourself have had an abortion, or simply stand in solidarity with those who have—to let the Supreme Court, Congress and the White House know: We will not give up the right to safe, legal, accessible abortion.

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About , and

Maria Antonieta Alcalde is the director of Ipas Central America and Mexico.
Mariela Belski is the executive director of Amnesty International Argentina.
Paula Avila-Guillen is a Colombian human rights lawyer, activist and executive director of Women’s Equality Center.