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News > Colombia

Colombian Court Seeks to Decriminalize Abortion

  • Protest in Colombia for safe and legal abortion, February 2020.

    Protest in Colombia for safe and legal abortion, February 2020. | Photo: Twitter: @Aborto_LegalCol

Published 26 February 2020

The court will vote on Wednesday to see if the decriminalization of abortion should be applied beyond the permitted grounds.

On Wednesday Colombia's Constitutional Court will make an important decision on the legalization of abortion in the country, which could lead to the total decriminalization of women who decide to terminate their pregnancies, according to local sources.


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After two weeks of evaluating a lawsuit by lawyer Natalia Bernal, which demanded that the high court penalize women who interrupt their pregnancies, a counter-proposal will be put to a vote by Judge Alejandro Linares in which he requests the total decriminalization of abortion. 

"What happens in the Constitutional Court today will be key. Linares' presentation can be approved with only five votes in his favor," said House Representative Maria Jose Pizarro to the local newspaper El Tiempo.

Bernal sent his demand to the court at the end of 2019. In it, he requested that abortion be completely criminalized and that the grounds created by this same court in 2006 be eliminated, which allowed the termination in three cases: when there is a risk to the life or health of the mother, rape or fetal malformation incompatible with life.

"My support for Judge Linares' presentation to decriminalize abortion and protect the lives of millions of women in Colombia Our struggle has been to promote a desired pregnancy and a place in the desire for children."

Meanwhile, Alejandro Linares, who was left in charge of studying the case after the court received the complaint, proposed that "the decriminalization of abortion should be total, beyond the three permitted grounds. 

Every woman "must be able to terminate her pregnancy freely and of her own free will during her first trimester. From then on, the three grounds approved by the Court in 2006 would be maintained," Linares included in his proposal.

Although for attorney Bernal, "life is given from conception, so we must defend the rights of the unborn," it is expected that this demand by Bernal will not be accepted by the court, as most judges believe it would be a serious setback, according to local sources.

While that is expected, other outcomes may occur. "The first, and least likely, the scenario is that the court accepts Bernal's claim and eliminates the grounds. The second, that it decides to keep things as they are (abortion continues with grounds)," explained Pizarro.

The last scenario would be the one proposed by Linares: liberalizing first-trimester abortion. However, according to local sources, he would have the support of three magistrates, four would be against, and two would be undecided.

 "Whatever the ruling, there will be one sector that will not be happy. But the reality is that every woman should have the right to decide about her body. To decriminalize abortion is to defend a key human right," concluded House Representative Maria Jose Pizarro's Decency List. 

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