Colombia becomes latest Latin American country to partially decriminalize abortion

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The nation’s Constitutional Court docket dominated in favor of legalizing abortion up till 24 weeks of a being pregnant, the supreme tribunal introduced in an announcement.

Abortion rights advocates reacted on Monday with marches in Bogota, the capital, and different main cities, having campaigned for twenty years to take away abortion from the nation’s legal code.

“We knew this was not a straightforward battle, however sooner or later it needed to occur,” stated Mariana Ardila, a ladies’s rights activist and lawyer who signed the petition to decriminalize abortion. “After all, whereas we have been hoping for full decriminalization, and we are going to maintain combating for it, this is a vital step ahead for us,” Ardila instructed CNN, surrounded by ladies’s rights activists exterior the court docket on Monday night.

Abortion in Colombia has solely been authorized below three circumstances: when the life or well being of the girl is in danger, if the fetus has malformations that make it nonviable or when the being pregnant is the results of rape or incest.

Now, ladies searching for an abortion as much as the twenty fourth week of their being pregnant is not going to face prosecution, the court docket dominated. Abortion after 24 weeks stays unlawful, besides if a type of three circumstances is current.

Since 2006, ladies searching for to finish a being pregnant exterior of these circumstances might resist 54 months in jail below the Colombian penal code. Whereas jail sentences have been uncommon, abortion rights advocates say criminalization of the observe creates a local weather of concern and suspicion between sufferers and the medical class, who typically really feel compelled to report abortions to the authorities for concern of taking part in against the law.
Lots of of girls in Colombia are investigated for receiving unlawful abortions each year. Others resort to clandestine abortions, a pervasive and infrequently unsafe observe throughout the remainder of the area.

Even ladies who’re medically entitled to an abortion have confronted boundaries to entry remedy in Colombia. Alejandra Gutierrez, a 23-year-old most cancers affected person from Bogota, instructed CNN that her case needed to undergo a panel dialogue between a gynecologist, a hematologist, and a psychiatrist earlier than her request was authorized.

All through the method, she says she acquired little clear details about the dangers of terminating the being pregnant or carrying the newborn to time period amid chemotherapy remedy.

Solely after three weeks and quite a few interviews was she allowed to finish the being pregnant. “I felt so susceptible, so small, and I nonetheless really feel I by no means actually received to the underside of it. My concern was that it began to develop, inside my stomach, after which it was too late, I used to be scared to dying.” she instructed CNN in November.

Past the regulation, pregnant ladies in Colombia have confronted bureaucratic delays, detrimental attitudes and medical workers who refuse to hold out the process below a “conscientious objection” clause.

A regional reckoning

In Latin America, the place the Catholic church stays a serious affect, society has lengthy been hostile to women seeking abortion. Nevertheless, two landmark rulings in Argentina and Mexico sign a rising shift in serious about the process.

In September, Mexico’s Supreme Court docket unanimously dominated that penalizing abortion is unconstitutional, a call anticipated to set precedent for the authorized standing of abortion nationwide. And in December 2020, Argentina’s Senate voted to legalize abortion as much as 14 weeks right into a being pregnant, making the nation the biggest nation in Latin America on the time to legalize the observe.

Nations the place the process is authorized typically develop into important locations for ladies searching for care that they can’t obtain of their house nations. Cuba, Uruguay, French Guiana and Guyana, additionally enable elective abortions, in keeping with the Center for Reproductive Rights.
Brazil, the biggest nation in Latin America, only allows abortion if the individual’s life is in danger or when the being pregnant is the results of rape. El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua and Suriname ban abortions in almost all circumstances. In Costa Rica and Guatemala, abortions are solely permitted if it is to protect the individual’s well being or assist save their life. In Panama, the process is just allowed to protect the mom’s well being or life within the case of rape, or fetal malformation. Simply final week, Ecuador’s Congress authorized a invoice permitting entry abortions — if the being pregnant is the results of rape — as much as 12 weeks of being pregnant for ladies in city areas and as much as 16 weeks for minors and adults in rural areas. Nevertheless, the invoice nonetheless must be signed into regulation by Ecuador’s president, who has threatened to veto it.

In Colombia, one lady instructed CNN she was compelled to go away the nation in 2017 to hunt an abortion after turning into pregnant on the age of 15. She requested that her identify be withheld as a result of sensitivity and stigma of the difficulty there.

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“I used to be actually scared, you enter in a state of whole panic when it occurs, how will you suppose with readability about something in that state?” she stated. She was nonetheless in highschool on the time.

Nevertheless, her mom agreed to assist her journey to Mexico Metropolis, the place the observe was authorized lengthy earlier than it develop into nationwide regulation. “I used to be fortunate: my mom doesn’t help abortion and was very let down, however she nonetheless had my again. She had job on the time, so we might afford flying to Mexico and staying there for per week to do it. However many others cannot try this,” she instructed CNN.

“Everyone knows a girl who received an abortion, it is simply that no person is aware of who she is. We do not discuss it as a result of it is nonetheless a taboo, below wraps, however everyone is aware of it,” she stated.

Social taboos and public shaming across the concern stay ongoing boundaries to abortion schooling and entry, in keeping with abortion rights activists.

“That is additionally about altering mentality,” stated Dr. Laura Gil, a gynecologist in Bogota who signed one of many petitions to Colombia’s Constitutional Court docket to alter the regulation. “We’re not attempting to make folks change their opinion about abortion — that could be a query that’s necessary just for ladies who’re going through an undesirable being pregnant.

“That is about folks understanding that no matter their opinion, abortion is a proper,” she stated.

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