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Colombian Court Keeps Abortion Status Quo, Disappoints Latinos On Both Sides

Pro-abortion rights activists demonstrate in Bogota, Colombia, last month in advance of their country's high court ruling on abortion legalization.
Pro-abortion rights activists demonstrate in Bogota, Colombia, last month in advance of their country's high court ruling on abortion legalization.

For weeks, people across Latin America and in the U.S. had been waiting for a major ruling on abortion from Colombia’s highest court. But the decision the justices issued Monday night was not all that major – and was an anti-climactic letdown for South Florida Latinos on both sides of the issue. 

Since 2006, abortion has been legal in Colombia only in cases of rape or incest, severe fetus malformation or if the woman’s life is at risk.

Anti-abortion activists wanted Colombia’s Constitutional Court to make all abortions illegal again. Abortion rights activists wanted the court to make all abortions legal in the first trimester.

But the court rejected both appeals and kept the status quo.

The case was watched closely in Latin America – which has some of the world’s most restrictive abortion laws –  and also among Latinos in the U.S. and South Florida. They have historically been anti-abortion, but polls show the demographic –  especially younger and U.S.-born Latinos – trending toward abortion rights.

“It’s painful to hear that the [Latin American] courts are failing to decriminalize abortion, that we are going to have to continue with the status quo, which has continued to fail survivors of gender-based [sexual] violence and women in general in Colombia,” said Laura Muñoz, a Colombian-American in Miami who heads the non-profit group Poderosa, which aids victims of gender violence in the U.S. and Colombia and supports abortion rights.

Anti-abortion Latinos here were also disappointed.

“I am relieved the court did not expand abortion even more," said Adolfo Castañeda, who directs Hispanic education for the Roman Catholic nonprofit Human Life International in Miami. "But on the other hand I am very sad the court did not make abortion totally illegal, as it should be, because it’s the direct killing of innocent human beings and it harms women.”

The abortion battle is hardly over in Latin America, though: Argentine President Alberto Fernández says he’ll send a bill to Congress this month to legalize all abortions in the first trimester. A similar bill narrowly failed in Argentina in 2018.

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