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10 Years of Legal Abortion in Colombia

(PRESS RELEASE) Today marks 10 years since the Colombian Constitutional Court deemed the country’s blanket ban on abortion unconstitutional and mandated that abortion be legally accessible in some circumstances—a historic move for the court which recognized  women’s sexual and reproductive rights as human rights.

In 2006, the Colombian Constitutional Court ruled that abortion is a constitutional right for women and should not be criminalized in cases of rape, incest, fatal fetal impairments, and health or life endangerment. It also recognized a woman’s right to make decisions regarding her reproductive life.

While the government continues to demonstrate its commitment to the promotion and protection of reproductive rights, women in Colombia still face barriers to accessing safe abortion services, such as onerous medical requirements to prove they qualify for a legal abortion, as well as refusals to provide safe abortion services by doctors, medical institutions —and even judges—based on their personal or moral objections.

Said Catalina Martínez Coral, regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean at the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“Today we celebrate a woman’s fundamental right to safe and legal abortion and commend the Colombian women’s movement for working tirelessly to make this right a reality.

“Colombia has some of the strongest constitutional and legal protections for women’s rights in Latin America, but they cannot be allowed to exist on paper alone.

“The government must continue to promote and defend women’s reproductive rights by implementing meaningful polices that ensure access to legal abortion services.”

On May 10, 2006, the Colombian Constitutional Court issued its C-355 decision stating “women’s sexual and reproductive rights have finally been recognized as human rights, and, as such, they have become a part of constitutional rights, which are the fundamental basis of all democratic states.” The court ruled that abortion is legally permitted in three circumstances: when the health or life of the pregnant woman is at risk, in cases of rape, incest and fatal fetal impairments, and in circumstances where a woman has suffered an unwanted artificial insemination or unwanted implantation of a fertilized ovule.

The Center for Reproductive Rights along with the Mesa por la Vida y la Salud de las Mujeres, and other women’s organizations, is hosting a public event today at 5 PM COT at Parque de Los Hippies in Bogota  called “Es un hecho, abortar es un derecho” (It’s a fact, abortion is a right) commemorating the decriminalization of abortion in Colombia. La Mesa will be live tweeting the event from their handle @mesaporlavida and using the hashtag #Aborto10años.

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