In a tragic move, Colombia has decriminalized abortion in the country up to 24 weeks, following in the footsteps of other large Latin American countries like Mexico and Argentina.
The decision came from the country’s high court, generally considered to be more liberal than the rest of the country, in a 5-4 split decision. The question was originally to be decided in November of 2021, but when Judge Alejandro Linares made public comments in favor of abortion, questions were raised over whether the judge ought to recuse himself, which he eventually did. The remaining judges were evenly split, according to the Washington Post, so the court added a tie-breaking judge who ultimately tipped the decision in favor of abortion.
Prior to the court’s decision, abortions in the country were allowed only in cases of rape, severe fetal malformation, or in cases of danger to the mother’s life, even though intentionally killing a preborn child is never medically necessary. Women who obtained abortions could be subject to criminal penalties and jail time, which was the impetus for the 2020 lawsuit brought by supporters of the pro-abortion Causa Justa coalition that made its way to the high court.
As a result of the court’s decision, abortions in Colombia may now legally be committed until the 24th week of pregnancy. After 24 weeks (approximately six months), the mother’s life must be in jeopardy for an abortion to be permitted.
Pro-lifers in the country devastated by the news took to social media to express their disappointment.
Senator María del Rosario Guerra tweeted, “A woman doesn’t need to abort when her pregnancy is unwanted or presents complications. She needs public policies, social accompaniment and options for life, not the offer of abortion as the first and only way out.” Her Twitter posts also featured a photo of pro-life activists outside the court with their blue scarves and handkerchiefs – as opposed to the abortion supporters’ green ones – and with small headstone-like tributes to preborn lives lost.
“I reject the decision of the @CConstitucional. You cannot speak of freedom without the right to live. Decriminalizing abortion up to week 24 is legalizing murder,” tweeted political scientist and Senate candidate, Sara Castellanos. “I will file a request for a referendum so that life is respected from conception.”
“The Colombian constitution says that life is the fundamental right of all citizens and the rest of the rights, which are defended in Colombia and throughout the world, start from there,” said Cardinal Luis José Rueda, Archbishop of Bogotá and president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, according to Vida Nueva. “We are called to consistently respect life from gestation to natural death and for us believers, life, apart from being a fundamental right, is a gift from God.”
In recent years, international abortion activists and foreign-funded groups have set the region in their crosshairs, pouring money and resources into Latin America to affect the liberalization of their abortion laws. Chile, which legalized abortion up to 12 weeks in 2017, elected a president who ran on a pro-abortion platform in which he vowed to make abortion safe, legal, and free. In 2020, Argentina legalized abortion up to 14 weeks following the election of a pro-abortion president. Mexico’s high court decriminalized abortion earlier this year in a dramatic decision that overturned the vast majority of state laws where abortion had remained illegal.
The abortion activist coalition Causa Justa, which brought the lawsuit in Colombia, is comprised of many international abortion advocacy groups based in North America, according to the group’s website. New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights was one of the organizations in 2020 to join the lawsuit. As reported by the Associated Press, a lawyer for the organization, Cristina Rosero, admitted to the group’s objective: “We were trying to get the complete decriminalization of abortion … but this is still a historic step.”
The Causa Justa lawsuit is the first of two to be heard by the court. Another suit, which claims the previous abortion restrictions violate human dignity, will be heard by the court at a later date. That ruling will not affect the most recent one handed down by the court.
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