Five organizations in Colombia that work for sexual and reproductive rights appealed to the country's top court to not put more restrictions on women’s choice of a voluntary abortion.
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The Constitutional Court will examine the possibility of limiting the number of weeks during which women can voluntarily terminate a pregnancy. For women organizations in Colombia, this proposal will increase the obstruction of women’s right to abortion.
The Bureau for Women's Health and Life, the Center for Reproductive Rights, Profamilia, Catholics for the Right to Decide Colombia, Women's Link Worldwide and Dejusticia fear that this high court will limit the weeks in which a woman can access the voluntary interruption of pregnancy in Colombia, arguing that this would endanger their lives, their health and increase existing barriers that prevent the guarantee of this right.
In Colombia, women abort in advanced gestational ages due to the multiple barriers that persist in the health system. This puts their lives at risk.
The organizations explained that "the danger to the life or health of the woman and the fetal viability — reasons for permitted abortions in Colombia — could be diagnosed in later weeks of pregnancy. Limiting the time would be incompatible with these reasons. On the other hand, this additional requirement would increase the barriers that already exist for women who need access to this right."
In the coming weeks, the full chamber of the Constitutional Court will meet to evaluate the case of a woman who faced multiple barriers to accessing a legal abortion and who could only obtain this procedure thanks to a rare judicial protection procedure.
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Women rights organizations argued that there are multiple barriers that lengthen the waiting time of women to access abortion services. Adding to that, hospitals and healthcare organizations are not well informed and often cannot discriminate between cases that are allowed abortion and cases that are not. There is a lack of medical centers, especially in rural areas, which would provide timely abortion.
For these reasons, the women rights organizations asked the Constitutional Court not to limit the weeks in which women can access a legal and safe abortion. Imposing more barriers will force women to continue to resort to clandestine abortions or to carry out pregnancies that threaten their health and lives, the groups argue.
In 2006, through Sentence C-355, the Constitutional Court of Colombia decriminalized abortion in three circumstances: when the continuation of the pregnancy constitutes a danger to the life or health of the woman, when there is a serious malformation of the fetus that makes its life unviable, and when the pregnancy is the result of a rape, artificial insemination or non-consensual transfer of fertilized ovum, or incest.
Profamilia figures for 2017 indicate that 10,517 legal abortions were performed in Colombia. This figure contrasts with an estimated 400,000 abortions or clandestine abortions that occurred in 2016, of which only 322 were voluntary interruptions of pregnancy. It is estimated that 44 percent of unplanned pregnancies in Colombia end in induced abortion.