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Abortion in Colombia: Hard-Won Gains at Risk

USAID funds must not be used to roll back historic wins for women's reproductive health and rights in Colombia — this is the message that the Center recently delivered to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a forceful letter. Our urgent appeal comes as Colombia's Attorney General continues to assault women's access to abortion.

Colombia Recognizes Abortion as Essential to Human Rights

In the past few years, Colombia has taken thrilling strides for women's reproductive health and rights. In May 2006, the country's Constitutional Court made history when it struck down the country's blanket ban on abortion as unconstitutional. "Protecting sexual and reproductive rights is a direct path to promoting the dignity of all human beings, and a step forward in humanity's advancement towards social justice," declared the court in its decision.

A subsequent ruling in October 2009 reaffirmed a woman's right to abortion and limited the right to conscientious objection, a daunting stumbling block for many Colombian women seeking an abortion.

Colombia's Attorney General Attempts to Roll Back Reproductive Rights

But Colombia's current Attorney General Alejandro Ordóñez Maldonado is actively seeking to dismantle these momentous advances for reproductive rights. Shortly after the Constitutional Court made its ruling on abortion and conscientious objection last year, Ordóñez announced that he would seek to nullify the decision. He has also outlined guidelines for medical institutions to "ensure the fundamental rights of unborn human beings" even in cases where abortion is legal, introducing additional barriers for women attempting to obtain legal therapeutic abortions.

As if that were not enough, Ordóñez appointed an outspoken opponent of the Constitutional Court's 2006 decision to legalize abortion to the public position of Delegated Attorney for the Defense of the Human Rights of Children, Adolescents, and Family.

USAID Funds Must Not Be Used to Curtail Access to Abortion

In April 2009, USAID pledged a grant of $2.9 million to the Attorney General's programmatic work, as part of the U.S. government's efforts to promote human rights in Colombia.

The Center is calling on the State Department to establish clear guidelines and oversight mechanisms to ensure that no USAID funding goes to the Attorney General's work to erode access to abortion or otherwise undermine women's reproductive health and rights.

Read our letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton >