Colombia’s Catholic Church is opposing a government initiative to regulate abortion as ordered by the country’s Constitutional Court.
In a letter to Health Minister Juan Pablo Uribe, church leader Monsignor Juan Vicente Cordoba told the minister he “justifies his actions to comply with Constitutional Court order SU096 from 2018 reiterating its order to regulate abortion.”
According to the church leader, however, “the Ministry forgets that in the same sentence Congress was ordered to legislate on the matter and that this body has courageously abstained from doing so.”
The letter followed the publication of a draft bill in which the Health Ministry proposes to obligate hospitals and health intermediaries to have trained personnel to carry out abortions when this is legal.
Abortion in Colombia has been legal since 2006 if a pregnancy is the result of rape, putting the life of the mother in danger or a fetus suffers life-threatening malformations.
Congress, however, has neglected to approve any legislation to regulate abortion despite multiple court orders.
Consequently, approximately 99% of the 400,000 abortions that are carried out in the country every year are performed outside the law, either in hospitals, by clandestine women’s rights organizations or by women and girls themselves, according to a 2015 study.
The lack of regulation has created a mess. While some hospitals perform abortions based on physicians’ personal moral convictions, others refuse to perform abortions even if they are constitutionally legal.
According to newspaper El Espectador, more than 1,100 women are facing criminal charges for having carried out abortions, often filed by physicians and in some cases despite being legal.
The abortion issue is highly controversial in Colombia, which is predominantly Catholic and where the church openly encourages Congress to defy the constitution.
Meanwhile, women’s rights organization are increasingly vocal in their opposition to the church, and women and girls appear to be taking their own decisions in disregard of the constitution.