Colombia’s constitutional court declined to vote on a magistrate’s proposal to legalize abortion, leaving the current ban and its exceptions in place.
Magistrate Alejandro Linares proposed to legalize abortion in the first 16 after conception after an anti-abortion activist petitioned the court in search of a blanket ban.
Court not ready for legal abortion
Six of the nine court members declared themselves impeded to vote on the proposal, effectively throwing it in the bin.
This means that the current ban remains in place and women abortions are only legal in cases that a pregnancy is the result of rape, endangering the woman’s life or could result in the birth of a baby with of-threatening malformations.
Linares’ proposal to legalize abortion triggered a highly emotional public debate in the predominantly Catholic country.
While anti-abortion activists were up in arms about what would be the most liberal abortion legislation in Latin America, women’s rights activists are thrilled.
The court’s decision to dump the proposal triggered a similarly heated debate with anti-abortion activists celebrating the decision online and women’s rights activists protesting the decision before the court.
Colombia’s abortion mess
Some 400,400 Colombian women and girls had an abortion in the preceding year. Only 322 of them were reported as legal, meaning that 99.9% of abortions would have been performed outside the law, according to a study by reproductive health policy institute Guttmacher.
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.
According to Guttmacher, one third of women and girls who carried out clandestine abortions suffered complications that required medical care.
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.
The vast majority of women and girls, in the meantime, are taking their own decisions, despite the legal and health risks.