02.21.22 – (PRESS STATEMENT) Today, the Constitutional Court of Colombia issued a ruling decriminalizing abortion up to 24 weeks gestation, a move expected to further eliminate barriers to legal abortion and help to end criminal prosecution of women and girls, as well as abortion providers. Colombia becomes the eighth country in Latin America and the Caribbean to decriminalize abortion during initial stages of pregnancy. The ruling is expected to have a far-reaching impact on the exercise of sexual and reproductive health and rights in the country.
The lawsuit was filed in 2020, brought by the Causa Justa (Just Cause) movement, a coalition of 90 organizations and 134 advocates, including the Center for Reproductive Rights. The lawsuit called for an end of the use of criminal law to regulate abortion because it bars women, adolescents and girls in vulnerable situations from accessing legal, safe and timely abortions, particularly in rural areas. The Center was one of five organizations that worked to draft this landmark lawsuit.
Abortion has been allowed in Colombia since 2006, but only in three specific circumstances, which will continue to be enforced for abortions after 24 weeks of pregnancy. Colombia joins the majority of countries in the world (72) that do not criminalize the termination of pregnancy and that respect a woman’s decision to have an abortion, regardless of the reason for that decision. It also becomes the eighth Latin American country to take this great step in favor of women.
Statement from Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:
“Access to abortion is essential healthcare and a human right and should not be treated as a crime. This ruling represents great progress for the people of Colombia. It will make a huge difference, especially for those who live in rural areas where access to abortion is hardest to secure — even in circumstances resulting from sexual violence.
“At the Center, we work to track, advance and defend abortion access throughout the world, and the overwhelming trend over the last 25 years has been the liberalization of abortion laws. We saw that most recently by the Supreme Court in Mexico and by the legislature in Argentina; we saw it just last week from Parliament in Benin, in West Africa. And now, there is more progress in Colombia. Against this trend, the United States is shockingly regressing while much of the world is finally seeing abortion care for what it is, essential health.
“We hope that the next step for Colombia will be the total decriminalization of abortion, in order to protect women’s reproductive autonomy at all times. With this decision, Colombia joins the 72 countries that regulate abortion under time limits. We hope that in the near future, Colombia will achieve greater liberalization of abortion laws.”
Statement from Catalina Martínez Coral, the Center’s Senior Regional Director for Latin American and The Caribbean:
“We celebrate the Court’s decision to recognize the right to autonomy and the right to decide for women, adolescents and girls during the early stages of pregnancy. This is a very important step because it recognizes autonomy and guarantees broader access. However, we regret that the Court has not taken a step towards eliminating the crime considering that it is the crime itself that continues to create barriers and stigma to access. We will continue to work to make this a reality one day in Colombia. The decriminalization of abortion is a necessary advancement for women’s rights and an essential step toward the provision of abortion in safe conditions throughout the country.
“However, Colombia’s Constitutional Court has advanced to protect women’s rights, especially those of girls victims of sexual violence who were subjected to forced pregnancy and maternity due to lack of information because of the stigma. We want women no longer to be accused of a crime for accessing abortion, an essential health service and this ruling is the right path.
“Colombia becomes the eighth country in Latin America where abortion on request is not necessary a crime. The Center will continue to work closely with other organizations so that people are free to make decisions about their bodies and their futures without fear of going to jail because abortion is at the same time a right and a crime.”
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