Crime & Justice

Colombia legalizes abortion up to 24th week of pregnancy

Bogota, Feb 21 (EFE).- Colombia’s Constitutional Court ruled Monday in favor of decriminalizing the voluntary interruption of pregnancy up to the 24th week of gestation, an “historic (step) for Latin America,” that feminist organizations had pushed with an eye toward protecting women’s lives and health.

After months of delay in rendering a decision due to administrative procedures and impediments on the judges imposed by anti-abortion organizations, the court on Monday – in an extraordinary session – approved the move by a 5-4 vote, which does not eliminate the crime from the Penal Code but placed a six-month limit on the length of a pregnancy that can be voluntarily interrupted.

“Abortion is decriminalized up to 24 weeks and it’s a great achievement for women. It’s historic for Colombia and for Latin America, it’s a step and an advancement that’s very important for continuing to guarantee women’s lives, health, freedom and right to decide,” Women’s Link attorney and spokesperson for the Just Cause movement, Mariana Ardila, a member of the legal team that more than 500 days ago filed the case before the court, told EFE.

More than 100 women, wearing the characteristic green scarves of the pro-abortion movement, welcomed the news of the ruling with excitement, tears, hugs and shouts of “It’s legal” after months awaiting a decision by the high court.

“We in the Just Cause movement are very happy because we women have won, the Constitutional Court was given the chance to make history, guaranteeing the rights of women,” Sandra Mazo, another of the spokespeople for the movement, which includes more than 100 feminist and human rights organizations, told EFE.

With this decision, “women are not going to be prosecuted or criminalized at least up to a certain week (of pregnancy) and that, for us, is important. We women won,” Mazo said.

Since 2006 in Colombia, prosecution and court sentences for people facilitating or having an abortion have been increasing in number, with an average of 400 cases each year and a total of 346 women convicted of having had an abortion up through 2019, according to a recent report by the movement, citing figures provided by the Attorney General’s Office.

Abortion is one of the most prosecuted crimes, and one of the ones receiving the most convictions, in the intrafamily and sexual violence area, including nonconsensual abortion, the report said.

From the moment that the statement announcing the court ruling was made public, women will cease being subject to prosecution for a crime that, except in three situations – rape or incest, danger to the mother’s life or health and deformity of the fetus – had been punishable by up to four-and-a-half years behind bars.

“Without doubt, this is a huge advance for the thousands of women and girls who were at risk and who now can turn to the healthcare system,” added Ardila, who promised that they will keep “pushing for the crime of abortion to be eliminated from the Penal Code, but today a very important advance has been made.”

Two lawsuits have been lingering before the high court for more than a year calling for eliminating the crime of abortion, but it was the one filed by Just Cause that now has prospered.

The road to this point has been filled with potholes and the plaintiffs had to overcome assorted obstacles.

Despite being something of a half-measure, the ruling leaves the door open for complete decriminalization of abortion, given that the second lawsuit still must be ruled on by the court.

EFE ime-jdl/joc/laa/bp

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