Colombia has become the latest country in Latin America to expand access to abortion, with the nation's Constitutional Court voting to legalize the procedure until the 24th week of pregnancy.
Monday's decision by the tribunal of nine judges fell short of the expectations of pro-choice groups that had been pushing for abortion to be completely decriminalized in Colombia. But it was nevertheless described as a historic event by women's rights groups, which estimate 400,000 women get clandestine abortions in the country each year.
Before the ruling, Colombia allowed abortions only when a woman's life was in danger, a fetus had malformations or the pregnancy resulted from rape.
Cristina Rosero, a lawyer for the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights said, “We were trying to get the complete decriminalization of abortion...but this is still a historic step.”
The Center for Reproductive Rights is an advocacy group that was one of five organizations that filed a 2020 lawsuit to get the high court to review Colombia’s abortions laws.
In the lawsuit, it argued that restrictions on abortion rights, while they discriminate against all women, disproportionately discriminate against women from low-income backgrounds and parts of the country. These individuals historically have less access to lawyers, doctors, and psychologists who might help them prove that carrying out the pregnancy might put their physical or mental health at risk, as the Associated Press reported.
In Colombia, a majority of the population identifies as Roman Catholic. The issue of abortion has long been a controversial one and judges had to meet several times to review this lawsuit filed by the women's rights groups.