Fetal abnormality was the reason cited in 61% of abortions performed in Colombia between 2006 and 2009, since the procedure was legalized in cases of rape, severe malformation of the fetus, or risk to the life of the mother.
In the period there were 649 legal abortions in the country, according to a report released by the Inspector General’s Office.
Of these terminations, 20% were due to risk to the life of the woman in question, while rape or incest was cited in over 18% of cases.
Paola Salgado Piedrahita, a lawyer for the Bureau for the Life and Health of Women, said that the high proportion of abortions based on fetal abnormality is due to the fact that “doctors can establish this more easily than the other grounds, like pregnancies that are the product of rape. To the latter there are so many obstacles that the victims often don’t even make it to the hospital.”
A problem highlighted by the report is the lack of access for many women to the right to abortion, with doctors refusing to perform the procedure.
All clinics are required by law to safeguard the right to abortion, by referring patients to another institution if they lack doctors willing to perform the procedure, but this is not always enforced.
Semana highlights the case of a 13-year-old in Cucuta, north-east Colombia, who became pregnant after being raped. She was denied an abortion more than seven times at various hospitals, and was forced to give birth to a baby who was then given up for adoption.
In October 2009 then-Minister for Social Protection Diego Palacio declared that the government would defend the right of women to abortion in line with the law.
Bogota Health Secretary Hector Zambrano said that the biggest issue is illegal abortions “which kill thousands of women,” and that the debate should be taken out of its moral framework and viewed as a public health issue.
Around 300,000 clandestine abortions are performed each year, according to government figures.