Colombia decriminalizes abortion

Earlier this week, Colombia decriminalized abortion during the first 24 weeks of pregnancy. It’s just the latest in a string of victories for pro-choice advocates across Latin America, known as the “Green Wave” movement for the green bandanas they wear. The impact will be profound for women throughout the region. 

But as Latin America begins to liberalize its abortion laws, the United States continues to move backwards.  

The green wave spreads through Latin America 

Colombia’s constitutional court ruled on Monday that abortion must be decriminalized up to 24 weeks of pregnancy.

Previously, abortion was only allowed under very limited circumstances, such as a threat to the life of the mother or in cases of rape and women could be jailed for ending a pregnancy. Abortion rights groups had sued to have abortion removed from the penal code.  

“My future belongs to me!”

While hundreds of thousands of abortions are carried out in Colombia each year, only a small fraction are carried out legally. Women desperate to end pregnancies too often put their lives and health at risk undergoing unsafe abortion—and some even faced criminal charges for doing so.  

Colombia is now the third Latin American country to decriminalize abortion in the past two years, following similar rulings in Argentina and Mexico. Latin America has some of the world’s most restrictive abortion laws, and abortion remains heavily stigmatized. But a wave of advocacy is resulting in real change. As restrictive laws topple, more women will be able to control their own bodies and stay on their chosen paths.  

The United States moves backwards 

In Latin America, the courts are playing a vital role in removing abortion restrictions. But in the United States, many fear the Supreme Court will roll back the right to abortion when they issue their decision in the Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case that challenges the Mississippi ban on abortion after 15 weeks.  

Late last year, the Supreme Court allowed a six-week abortion ban to remain in effect in Texas—before many women even know they’re pregnant. The Mississippi case currently before the court could result in Roe v. Wade being overturned altogether. 

If Roe v. Wade is overturned, states will be free to impose restrictions on the right to abortion—and many already have laws on the books to ban or severely limit it. Women in those states will be forced to travel for abortion care or carry pregnancies they do not want.  

Everyone, no matter where they live, should have the right to control their own bodies. As the Green Wave continues to transform Latin America, we’ll keep working to expand access to choice for women around the world.  

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