Colombia became the latest country in Latin America to expand access to abortion Monday as the nation’s Constitutional Court voted to legalize the procedure until the 24th week of pregnancy.
The 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, reports AP.
Before the ruling, Colombia allowed abortions only when a woman’s life was in danger, a fetus had malformations or a pregnancy resulted from rape.
Now women in Colombia will be able to get abortions until the 24th week of their pregnancy without having to provide any justification. After the 24th week of pregnancy, abortion will still face restrictions.
“We were trying to get the complete decriminalization of abortion … but this is still a historic step,” said 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.
Latin America is also a region where some countries prohibit the termination of pregnancy without exception, like in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras and the Dominican Republic.
In Colombia, where a majority of the population identifies as Roman Catholic abortion has long been a controversial issue. Judges met several times to review the lawsuit filed by women’s rights groups without voting on it. Meanwhile pro-choice groups waving green flags, faced off against pro-life protesters dressed in blue.