Last Monday, Colombia’s Constitutional Court approved the voluntary interruption of abortion up to 24 weeks gestation, in what many consider a historic ruling.
The court approved decriminalization in a five-to-four vote and in response to a lawsuit filed in 2022 by the Causa Justa movement, a coalition of 90 organizations, in which the collective demanded an end to the criminalization of abortion, the BBC reported.
"Gracias a las feministas y gracias a Causa Justa" @julymartilo integrante de La Mesa por la Vida.
— MESA POR LA VIDA (@mesaporlavida) February 21, 2022
In the South American country, abortion was punishable by up to four and a half years in prison, although, since 2006, it was allowed for three causes: rape, fetal malformation, or health risk to the mother, with no time limit.
The ruling is a historic step forward and places Colombia at the forefront of Latin America in sexual and reproductive rights, but does not yet mark the end of the road for feminist groups, which seek to eliminate the crime in all cases, explained the Spanish newspaper El País.
Although other countries such as Argentina and Mexico have progressed in transforming abortion into a women’s right, the crime persists in some Mexican states and outside the 14 weeks established by law in Argentina for unrestricted abortion. Monday’s decision in Colombia goes further than Argentina’s by going up to 24 weeks. The Court reported the ruling in a statement in which it “urged” Congress and the Government to legislate and ensure that the decision is complied with in the shortest possible time.
“We knew this was not an easy fight, but at some point, it had to happen,” said Mariana Ardila, a women’s rights activist and lawyer who signed the petition to decriminalize abortion. “Of course, although we were hoping for full decriminalization and will continue to fight for it, this is an important step forward for us,” Ardila told CNN, surrounded by women’s rights activists outside the courthouse Monday night.
Since 2006, women who seek to terminate a pregnancy outside of those circumstances can face up to 54 months in jail under Colombia’s penal code.
Now, the court ruled that women who seek an abortion up to the 24th week of their pregnancy will not be prosecuted. Abortion after 24 weeks remains illegal unless one of the three circumstances mentioned is present.