The constitutional court in Colombia decriminalised abortion procedures, in a landmark judgment recently, up to 24 weeks of pregnancy, easing the restriction on the process.
For 15 years, Colombian law allowed for abortions only under three circumstances:
- if the mother’s life was endangered,
- if the pregnancy was a product of rape
- if the fetus was fatally deformed after 24 weeks
Previously, in Colombia, if women interrupt pregnancy other than the exceptions mentioned above, could end up in jail for 16 to 54 months.
The procedure was completely banned in the country for decades.
The case was brought in the form of a ‘green wave’ by feminists. The wave represents the decades of work done by feminist activists in the region.
It was primarily observed in Argentina, in December 2020, it passed a law to legalise abortion, and Mexico decriminalised the procedure in September.
In the case of Colombia, the lawsuit was brought by a group of 100 organisations named Causa Justa Por el Aborto. which demanded that abortion should be omitted from Colombia’s criminal code, and abortion should be regulated and governed under health laws instead.
Beatriz Quintero, the co-founder of La Mesa por la Vida y la Salud de las Mujeres, one of the organizations that signed on to the case, got an abortion when she was 18 years old in the 1970s when the procedure was a crime.
Quintero said she was afraid to be criminally charged for the abortion procedure and she had no safety guarantees as well.
For Quintero, who had an abortion decades ago, the decision marks a sign of change not just in her country, but across the region.
“These decisions show that the world is moving forward,” Quintero said.
In 2006, Colombia’s Constitutional Court, partially decriminalised abortions under the three conditions mentioned above.
Since the law was amended in 2006, criminal cases have taken a rise according to a recent report by La Mesa por la Vida y la Salud. Criminal cases of abortion jumped 320 per cent from 130 in 2005, when there was still an all-out ban, to 416 in 2018.
Minors and women from rural areas were disproportionately criminalised, the report stated. It further added that a minimum of 42 per cent of those prosecuted were victims of gender-based violence.
The court decision came as a symbolic step in the direction of development for the region.
Many Colombians support the legalization of the procedure, but only a few believe abortion should be completely legalized without any limitations.