The Stream

Colombia: How will expanded abortion rights affect women?

On Wednesday, February 23 at 19:30 GMT:
Colombia’s constitutional court voted on Monday to decriminalise abortions within the first 24 weeks of pregnancy. Activists called the ruling “historic” for Latin America, a predominantly Catholic and conservative region that has shown recent signs of change towards reproductive rights.

The decision does not remove abortion from Colombia’s penal code, but feminist groups still view the ruling as a victory for expanding women’s rights.

In 2006, Colombia partially legalised abortion, making exceptions for cases of rape, fatal fetal deformity, and where the life of the mother is threatened. In all other cases, women seeking abortions risked criminal prosecution and imprisonment.

Monday’s constitutional court ruling was the result of a 2020 lawsuit brought by the Causa Justa coalition of feminist and reproductive rights groups. They argued that the current law is unconstitutional because it denies the right of healthcare to women.

Women’s rights advocates say that criminalising abortion pushes women towards unsafe and clandestine alternatives which could put their lives at risk. And those who have been raped or fall under the legal exceptions may still choose unsafe abortion options due to heavy social stigma.

Attitudes towards abortion have been shifting in other Latin American countries as well. In 2020, Argentina approved abortions up to 14 weeks of pregnancy. Last September, Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled that criminal penalties for abortions are unconstitutional. And this week, Ecuador made abortion legal for cases where the pregnancy is the result of rape.

In majority-Catholic Colombia, many hardline anti-abortion activists believe all abortions are equivalent to murder and that other paths such as adoption should be considered.

In this episode of The Stream, we’ll discuss the issues surrounding decriminalising abortion in Colombia. Join the conversation.

On this episode of The Stream, we speak with: 
Mariana Ardila, @LaMariArdila 
Spokesperson, Causa Justa

Natalia Bernal Cano, @natikcano 
Professor of Constitutional Law, Javeriana University

Megan Janetsky, @meganjanetsky