A Short History of Abortion in Colombia and why the recent ruling is significant.

A short history of abortion in colombia.

In Colombia, feminist activists’ call for abortion rights went mainstream over the last two years, as their counterparts won big in neighboring countries.Colombia recently joined Mexico and Argentina as countries in Latin America who knocked down the restrictive barriers to abortion. This would have been nearly impossible without the important work of activists in the country, some of whose work we have featured and celebrated here at safe2choose.

Ana Cristina González Vélez was a pioneer of the Causa Justa movement, activist, teacher and expert in health, sexual and reproductive rights and gender equality and Cristina Villareal, also a pioneer of the Causa Justa movement, psychologist, former director of the Oriéntame and ESAR foundations in Colombia. Co-author of research on unwanted pregnancy, abortion and reproductive decisions. Co-founder de CLACAI and La Mesa por la Vida y la Salud de las Mujeres. Also Importantly, Monica Roa who in 2006, she and her organisation persuaded the Constitutional Court of Colombia to overturn the ban on abortion, on grounds that the ban was violating the country’s commitments to International Human Rights treaties concerning a woman’s right to life and health. These are among numerous feminist activists in Colombia that gathered outside the courthouse to celebrate the ruling on February 22nd 2022.

The Abortion History Timeline in Colombia.

1837- 1936

Therapeutic Abortion to save a mother’s life was permitted. However, all other forms of abortion, regardless of whether the abortion was consented or not were banned.

1922

A very conservative 1922 law was presented to reform the penal code that would have eliminated therapeutic abortion and punished women who sought an abortion but maintained the aborto honoris causa, but the law never entered into force.
Abortion was illegal without exceptions

1936- 2006

Abortion was illegal without exceptions. In this period, Law 95 generally punished women who self-induced or consented to someone else inducing her abortion with a penalty of (1-3 years), those who practised an abortion without the woman’s consent or on a girl under 14 years.

2006

As a result of the legal battle led by Monica Roa, there was a ruling by Colombia’s powerful Constitutional Court, where women were allowed to terminate a pregnancy in three cases:

  1. Rape or incest,
  2. Fatal fetal abnormality,
  3. Danger to the physical or mental health of the mother.

This ruling was the result of the case of Martha Sulay González, who died of cancer when she was denied access to treatment because she was pregnant. She needed to undergo an abortion and then treatment.

2005- 2017

2,290 women were prosecuted for having an abortion – including 502 minors. According to data released by Colombia’s Attorney General.

42% of the women who criminalized were between 15 and 19 years of age, and
75% were under the age of 24.
97% of the women who were criminalized were from rural backgrounds.
38 girls were under the age of 14 years old

2015- 2020

In November 2015, colombia’s attorney announced that he would send a bill to congress legalizing abortion in the first 12 weeks. The minister of health supports legalizing abortion but said that montealegre’s bill was not the most suitable mechanism to do so, claiming instead that the obstacles are not legal, but rather misinformation and cultural factors.

2020

In 2020, the Colombian Constitutional Court ruled against banning all abortions, upholding the current requirements for the procedure.

2022

Judges on Colombia’s constitutional court voted on Feb 21, 2022 to decriminalize abortion until 24 weeks of gestation after 518 days of holding a decision. This decision adds Colombia to a list of Latin American countries which have recently liberalised abortion access including Mexico and Ecuador. However, there is still some contention among Ecuadorian Activists about the new law which has restrictions and does not give women much options in terms of alternatives.

(This law is a fallo retroactive which means that people who are/were being prosecuted for having an abortion before 24 weeks due to the past restrictive legislation will be annuled)