(CMR) Colombia on Monday voted to legalize abortion until the 24th week of pregnancy. This was described as a historic move by women's rights groups which estimated that some 400,000 abortions are done secretly in the country annually.
According to AP, before the ruling, Colombia allowed abortions only when a woman's life was in danger, a fetus had malformations, or pregnancy resulted from rape. Now women can get an abortion up to 24 weeks without justification.
“We knew this was not an easy fight, but at some point, it had to happen,” said Mariana Ardila, an attorney for Women's Link Worldwide, who signed the petition to decriminalize abortion.
“Of course, while we were hoping for full decriminalization, and we will keep fighting for it, this is an important step forward for us,” Ardila told CNN outside the court on Monday evening.
After the 24th week of pregnancy, abortion will still face restrictions.
Cristina Rosero, a lawyer for the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights, an advocacy group that was one of five organizations that filed a lawsuit in 2020 to get the high court to review Colombia's abortions laws, said the group wanted to get complete decriminalization but still welcomes the historic step.
According to AP, the lawsuit argued that restrictions on abortion discriminated against women from low-income areas for whom it was harder to get legal abortions because they had less access to doctors, lawyers, or psychologists who could help them to prove that carrying out pregnancies would put their health at risk.
In Latin America, where the Catholic church remains a major influence, society has been hostile to women seeking an abortion. Argentina, Uruguay and Cuba have allowed abortions without restrictions until certain stages of pregnancy. At the same time, in Mexico, a supreme court ruling recently said that women could not be tried in court for terminating their pregnancies. However, some countries prohibit the termination of pregnancy without exception, like El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras and the Dominican Republic.
Jonathan Silva, an activist for the pro-life group United for Life, told AP he was surprised by Monday's decision. “We don't understand how this happened. But we will have to stage protests and call on members of Congress to regulate abortion,” he said.
Last year, a poll in Colombia said that 25% of people considered abortion a crime, while 42% disagreed with that statement. In Colombia, women who get illegal abortions can face up to three years in prison.