'Court owes women': Groups criticize Colombian abortion decision delay

The Constitutional Court was expected to make history on Friday, but it did not happen. Safe abortion is the fourth leading cause of death in the world.

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The women's rights movement in Colombia is seeking a ruling after a much-anticipated ruling by a national court last week was postponed.

"The court owes women," Catalina Martínez Coral, director of the Center for Reproductive Rights, Catalina Martínez Coral, told Noticias Telemundo.

The Constitutional Court has not yet ruled on whether to abort abortion as a matter of national justice. The decision was expected last week, but the debate was interrupted by a request from one of its judges, Alejandro Linares, to withdraw from the vote because of concerns over the issue.

If another judge decides that there is no need for Linares to withdraw, the court may rule this year. Withdrawal of the case will begin the process of bringing in a new judge, which will delay the decision until next year.

Women's rights groups filed the lawsuit, co-sponsored by the Just Cause umbrella organization, say the delay hurts women and girls in Colombia, where about 70 women die each year as a result of abortion problems, according to Doctors Without Borders.

“With each passing day, more and more insecure people are increasingly unable to access reproductive health care. They are being prosecuted, and they have cases against them, ”said Martínez Coral. "It is a punishment for Colombian women and girls."

Since 2006, the Colombian penal code allows for legal abortions under three circumstances: in cases of rape, incest or incest; in cases of severe fetal disability that makes life impossible; or when the medical team confirms that the life or health of the pregnant woman is in danger.

Any woman who performs the procedure - or the health workers involved - can face a 16- to 54-month prison sentence. According to official statistics, 400 women are persecuted each year.

"It is a very unfortunate situation, because, on the other hand, the exception gives you the right, but it is also a serious crime that creates stigma in the community and in the institution," said Ximena Casas Isaza, a Human Rights Watch researcher. this creates many barriers for high-risk women and girls, who, in the long run, may not be able to access essential health services such as a legal abortion. ”

An estimated 400,000 women and girls have abortions each year in Colombia, about a third of whom suffer from some form of abortion. Unsafe abortion is the fourth leading cause of death for mothers.

Several studies have found that girls and adolescents suffer more sexual abuse leading to unwanted pregnancies. In many cases, their very lives are at stake.

According to Just Cause, 73 percent of the victims in 26,158 cases of sexual assault were girls or teenagers up to 17 years of age. it said.

‘We need more support’

Cindy, a Colombian woman whose name has been withheld to protect her name, said she was not in a position to raise the child but feared that she would be punished by her family for having an abortion. She decided to talk to her partner and best friend, who was accompanying her during the entire abortion process.

"Those of us who made this decision, who need more support - should understand that, for some reason, it was a decision we made," he said.

Activists fighting for abortion rights are protesting Thursday outside the Constitutional Court in Bogota, Colombia, as judges review a case seeking to overturn an abortion. Fernando Vergara / AP

Cindy and hundreds of other Colombian women participated in awareness campaigns such as We Are All One, addressing dozens of non-governmental organizations and women's rights groups to demand abortions.

The organization is driven by the latest wave of changes and women's rights protests in various Latin American countries, such as Argentina and Mexico.

Girls and teens are the most affected

The Just Cause report found that for many girls and teens who become pregnant through sexual assault, “abusers are just like people from their own social or family backgrounds,” adding, “These sad statistics are only related to the reported incidents. . ”

The health care system uses current law as an excuse to deny services, says Paula Ávila-Guillén, executive director of the US-based Women's Equality Center, which directs the Latin American group's efforts. "That's why we have so many cases of girls who are pregnant as a result of rape not being able to have abortions, because there are so many restrictions imposed by the authorities."