We are celebrating amazing news in Colombia, where, on 21st February 2022, the Constitutional Court voted to decriminalise abortion.
Thanks to Causa Justa, a coalition of feminist organisations and activists who have worked tirelessly on a lawsuit to decriminalise abortion, the Colombian Constitutional Court voted to defend and uphold the rights of women and pregnant people across the country.
This is a resounding win for Colombia.
We are now the only country in Latin America and the Caribbean where women and pregnant people will be able to access an abortion on request up to 24 weeks of pregnancy. The change is effective immediately.
Abortion had been legally available in three circumstances (including when a woman’s health is at risk) since 2006. But in practice this has meant that women would often face barriers when trying to access an abortion. At our own clinic in Cali we often see women who have had issues accessing services, including barriers to their insurance. Women still feel judged and alone in their decision and haven’t known where to turn.
Now the Constitutional Court has said that any woman can access an abortion without meeting any specific requirement up to 24 weeks. After that she has to fit one of the three decriminalised circumstances (in cases where her life or health is at risk, she is pregnant as a result of rape, and for a non-viable pregnancy).
Now, a woman will be able to ask for an abortion without having to give any explanations to health providers.
She won’t run the risk of seeking out an unsafe abortion. She’ll know that her decision is supported by the highest court in Colombia.
But the work on the ground for organisations like Si Mujer is just beginning. A legislative change doesn’t mean a cultural change! We’re still living in a patriarchal, conservative country after all.
Now we have to turn this legal win into a real, practical win for women on a daily basis, particularly in rural and remote locations.
So, tomorrow, just like any other day, our young leaders working in schools across the city will continue to talk about the importance of planned pregnancies and women being able to make their own choices. We will continue to train health professionals and other public officials on how to ensure that women’s rights are met and upheld. And we will continue to support and accompany women as they go to their healthcare provider and ask for an abortion.
We will push for the cultural transformation needed for abortion to really, truly become healthcare in Colombia.
Si Mujer is a SAAF grantee partner based in Cali, Colombia. You can read more about their important work here.