Colombia legalizes abortion in move celebrated as ‘historic victory’ by activists | Global Development
Colombia has decriminalized abortion during the first 24 weeks of pregnancy, adding to a recent string of legal victories for reproductive rights in Latin America.
The South American country’s constitutional court ruled five to four to decriminalize the proceedings Monday night. This decision follows a series of decisions in Mexico and Argentina that have lowered barriers to abortion.
Previously, abortion in Colombia was only allowed if there was a risk to the life or health of the pregnant mother; the existence of life-threatening fetal malformations; or where the pregnancy is the result of rape, incest or non-consensual artificial insemination.
“We celebrate this decision as a historic victory for the women’s movement in Colombia, which has been fighting for decades for the recognition of their rights,” Erika Guevara-Rosas, director for the Americas at Amnesty International, said in a statement. “Women, girls and people capable of having children are the only ones who have to make decisions about their bodies.”
“Now, instead of punishing them, the Colombian authorities will have to recognize their autonomy over their bodies and their life plans,” Guevara-Rosas continued.
As the judgment was handed down, pro-abortion access protesters dressed in green – the color espoused by the pro-choice movement – celebrated outside Colombia’s Constitutional Court in downtown Bogotá, the capital city. Anti-abortion protesters also demonstrated against the decision.
Abortion rights groups, collectively known as Green Wave, have sued to have abortion removed from the criminal code. The movement had already seen the Constitutional Court decide not to rule on the issue on several occasions over the past two years.
Reproductive rights groups estimate that up to 400,000 abortions are performed each year in Colombia, of which only 10% are performed legally. In 2020, at least 26,223 unsafe abortions were performed across Colombia, according to Profamilia, a local reproductive healthcare provider.
According to Causa Justa, a Colombian women’s rights coalition, at least 350 women were convicted or punished for abortion between 2006 and mid-2019, including at least 20 girls under the age of 18.
Latin America, a traditionally conservative region with a powerful Catholic and Evangelical Christian lobby, has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the world, often banning the procedure. In El Salvador, dozens of women have been imprisoned for homicide after suffering obstetrical emergencies.
“We salute the legal and political courage of the Constitutional Court in recognizing that women and girls are not second-class citizens,” said Paula Avila-Guillen, international human rights lawyer and executive director of the Women’s Equality Center. , based in New York. “By constitutionally protecting our autonomy over our own bodies and lives, the Court is changing the lives of millions of vulnerable women and girls disproportionately affected by abortion restrictions.”
“We celebrate with Colombia’s Green Wave movement as the country becomes the third country in Latin America to decriminalize abortion in the past two years,” Avila-Guillen said. “We know this will have a ripple effect in other Latin American countries that have not yet taken this step towards human rights and social justice.”
Mexico’s Supreme Court decriminalized abortion last year, while Ecuadorian parliamentarians last week relaxed regulations that now allow access to abortion in cases of rape.
“As we celebrate this historic decision today, the green wave is strong and growing, and the fight for reproductive rights and justice will only end when every person can access high-quality sexual and reproductive health care. quality when and where it is needed,” Eugenia Lopez Uribe, International Planned Parenthood Foundation regional director for the Americas and Caribbean region, said in a statement.