COLOMBIA: TOP COURT DECRIMINZALIZES ABORTION IN CASES OF INCEST, RAPE, DANGER TO MOTHER'S LIFE.Colombia's Corte Constitucional (CC) partially decriminalized abortion on May 10, allowing women to seek the procedure in special cases like incest, rape, and when completing a pregnancy would endanger the mother's life or if the fetus was too malformed mal·formed
Abnormally or faultily formed. to survive outside the womb. The decision eased Colombia's absolute criminalization crim·i·nal·ize
tr.v. crim·i·nal·ized, crim·i·nal·iz·ing, crim·i·nal·iz·es
1. To impose a criminal penalty on or for; outlaw.
2. To treat as a criminal. of the procedure, one of the most restrictive in Latin America Latin America, the Spanish-speaking, Portuguese-speaking, and French-speaking countries (except Canada) of North America, South America, Central America, and the West Indies. , and incensed conservative social sectors including the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church Roman Catholic Church, Christian church headed by the pope, the bishop of Rome (see papacy and Peter, Saint). Its commonest title in official use is Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. .
Decision calls total ban "irrational"
The long-awaited decision by the CC, which voted 5-3 in favor of the changes, cannot be overturned by the Corte Suprema de Justicia (CSJ). Under the decision, abortions will be permitted in the cases of rape, incest and if the life of the mother or fetus is in danger. Abortion under all other circumstances will remain illegal, punishable by sentences ranging from 16 to 54 months in jail for the woman and the doctor performing the procedure.
"The court fulfilled its duty in recognizing the right of Colombian women," lawyer Monica Roa, who spearheaded the lengthy legal battle to overturn the abortion ban, told Caracol radio.
"I'm very happy," Roa, who presented the petition to the court last year, told The Miami Herald in a telephone interview. "Hopefully, mortality rates of women seeking abortion will drop immediately because of this decision."
Roa brought the suit on the grounds that, by banning abortion, Colombia was violating its own commitments to international human rights treaties ensuring a woman's right to life and health. Roa's suit was backed financially by Women's Link Worldwide, a Madrid-based group for which she works.
Prior to the ruling, Colombia, El Salvador El Salvador (ĕl sälväthōr`), officially Republic of El Salvador, republic (2005 est. pop. 6,705,000), 8,260 sq mi (21,393 sq km), Central America. , and Chile were the only countries in Latin America where performing an abortion was illegal under any circumstance. The issue has become a hot topic of debate in the campaign ahead of the May 28 presidential elections, and some conservative politicians made their opposition to gay rights and reproductive rights Reproductive rights or procreative liberty is what supporters view as human rights in areas of sexual reproduction. Advocates of reproductive rights support the right to control one's reproductive functions, such as the rights to reproduce (such as opposition to forced a centerpiece in recent congressional elections (see NotiSur, 2006-03-31).
Conservative President Alvaro Uribe has voiced concern that women could take advantage of easing the ban to end unwanted pregnancies of any type. His main challengers in the race supported partial legalization LEGALIZATION. The act of making lawful.
2. By legalization, is also understood the act by which a judge or competent officer authenticates a record, or other matter, in order that the same may be lawfully read in evidence. Vide Authentication. .
In anticipation of the court's decision, anti-abortion groups took out ads in newspapers on May 10 calling abortion "a moral problem and not an issue of public health."
Federal officials estimate that as many 450,000 illegal abortions are performed each year in Colombia, the majority in unsanitary un·san·i·tar·y
Not sanitary. , clandestine clinics. Police figures show that 125 women were prosecuted in Colombia for getting abortions between 2003 and 2005.
The court, explaining its decision on May 11, said the life of a fetus could not be put ahead of the life of a mother and called the complete abortion complete abortion Obstetrics An abortion or miscarriage in which all tissues have been expulsed; an abortion may be completed by curettage to eliminate necrotic decidual tissue in the uterus, which might act as a nidus for infection. Cf Abortion. ban "disproportionate" and "irrational."
But opponents in this heavily Roman Catholic region saw the decision as akin to legalizing murder. Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, Colombia's highest Catholic Church official, told RCN RCN n abbr (= Royal Canadian Navy) → kanadische Marine radio that the decision was "an attack on human life." He said, "The depenalization of abortion is a judicial stupidity. The Corte Constitucional does not have the right to say there is or there is not a crime. This is a bad decision, the fruit of international pressures that disrespect many Colombians."
Advocates for the continued criminalization of abortion like Ilva Hoyos of the Red Futuro Colombia called the decision a victory for "foreign feminist movements and international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs)." She added, "We are not going to just cross our arms. Despite fatigue and sadness, we will keep fighting, not only to avoid a future decision [further decriminalizing abortion], but also to reverse the current decision."
Bogota newspaper El Tiempo El Tiempo (English: The Time) is the highest circulation daily newspaper in Colombia and the only non-tabloid daily with national distribution. praised the court decision in an editorial, saying, "An elevated number of unwanted pregnancies, many of them among teenagers and near-girls, scandalous levels of sexual abuse, also often against minors and within the family, the lack of sex education, and the absolute impossibility of going to a doctor of state social services were all circumstances that nourished the sinister business of clandestine abortion."
Abortion-rights advocates say arguments from the case are applicable to other Latin American countries as well. Women's-rights groups and human rights organizations have been mounting challenges in courts and on the streets to laws that in most cases permit abortion only when a woman has been raped or her life is in danger, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights in New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of . In the region, abortion is readily available only in Cuba, where women can have abortion on demand in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and in a few English-speaking Caribbean nations.
The parliaments of some countries, like Argentina and Uruguay, have begun to debate proposals to loosen abortion laws. In two recent cases, international human rights commissions told Peru and Mexico that they had violated their own laws by not permitting two women--in Mexico, a rape victim, and in Peru, a teenager whose fetus was severely malformed--to receive abortions.
With Colombia's decision, several Latin American groups that have been pressing for looser abortion laws see new opportunities to use the courts, many of which are changing and are seen as becoming more independent.
Roa is hopeful Chile will follow Colombia's lead, given the recent election of its first woman president, Michelle Bachelet. So far it seems unlikely. Bachelet has said that "the possibility of legalizing abortion is not part of my program."
In Uruguay, President Tabare Vazquez has opposed any changes to the status quo [Latin, The existing state of things at any given date.] Status quo ante bellum means the state of things before the war. The status quo to be preserved by a preliminary injunction is the last actual, peaceable, uncontested status which preceded the pending controversy. , which prohibits most abortions except in extreme cases.
"This decision influences and makes one think that other countries will advance on this issue," said Susana Chavez, director of the Center for the Promotion of Sexual and Reproductive Rights in Peru.
In Buenos Aires, Mabel Bianco, president of the Foundation for Studies and Research on Women, said the Colombia decision could propel plaintiffs to demand that governments adhere to the international treaties they signed requiring that they ensure a woman's right to health care. "I think this decision will prompt countries in Latin America that have stringent legislation to reflect that abortion is not ideological, but a health-care issue," Bianco said.
Groups advocating changing the laws argue that the abortion laws in Latin America are counterproductive. Latin America has a higher rate of abortion than even in Western European countries where abortion is legal and widely available.
Four million abortions, most of them illegal, take place in Latin America annually, the UN reports, and up to 5,000 women are believed to die each year from complications from the procedure.
The court's ruling will not be easy to put into effect, as health authorities ponder such thorny issues as how to confirm that a woman seeking an abortion was raped.
Church threatens to excommunicate ex·com·mu·ni·cate
tr.v. ex·com·mu·ni·cat·ed, ex·com·mu·ni·cat·ing, ex·com·mu·ni·cates
1. To deprive of the right of church membership by ecclesiastical authority.
Some groups opposed to abortion vowed to fight on. "We are calling for civil disobedience civil disobedience, refusal to obey a law or follow a policy believed to be unjust. Practitioners of civil disobediance basing their actions on moral right and usually employ the nonviolent technique of passive resistance in order to bring wider attention to the , so Colombians do not follow these practices," said Jose Galat, rector of the Universidad Gran Colombia. He has paid for full-page newspaper advertisements criticizing abortion-rights advocates. "We're going to call for a referendum to let the people decide if abortion should be legal because the court cannot impose this."
Catholic Church leaders reacted vehemently against the decision, telling the Associated Press that they would challenge the ruling and adding that Catholic women who seek abortions in Colombia could be excommunicated from the church.
Cardinal Pedro Rubiano said the procedure was reason for immediate excommunication excommunication, formal expulsion from a religious body, the most grave of all ecclesiastical censures. Where religious and social communities are nearly identical it is attended by social ostracism, as in the case of Baruch Spinoza, excommunicated by the Jews. . "All those who cause an abortion, including those protected by the law, are automatically excommunicated," said Rubiano, former president of the Conferencia Episcopal Colombiana (CEC (Central Electronic Complex) The set of hardware that defines a mainframe, which includes the CPU(s), memory, channels, controllers and power supplies included in the box. Some CECs, such as IBM's Multiprise 2000 and 3000, include data storage devices as well. ). "The penalty also covers those who help commit it." He refused to say to reporters whether he would excommunicate magistrates who voted for depenalization but did say that "they opened the door."
Indigenous woman first to seek legal abortion
The test case revolved around Martha Gonzalez, who was told by doctors that she had uterine cancer uterine cancer
Malignant tumour of the uterus. Cancers affecting the lining of the uterus (endometrium) are the most common cancers of the female reproductive tract. . Doctors counseled that she abort (1) To exit a function or application without saving any data that has been changed.
(2) To stop a transmission.
(programming) abort - To terminate a program or process abnormally and usually suddenly, with or without diagnostic information. her fetus or die. Colombian law at the time made the decision for her. Abortion was outlawed, no exceptions. She gave birth, and the 34-year-old's cancer is now inoperable inoperable /in·op·er·a·ble/ (in-op´er-ah-b'l) not susceptible to treatment by surgery.
Unsuitable for a surgical procedure. . Gonzalez, a street vendor, is spending her final months asking for donations for her four children so she can die knowing they will be housed and educated. "This change in the law could have saved my life. I just wish this law existed before," Gonzalez said.
Yolanda Mulcue, a 32-year-old woman of the Paez indigenous people, was the first to follow the path Gonzalez was prohibited from following. Doctors said she and her baby would die together if she did not get an abortion because her bone marrow was drying up and ceasing to produce blood. The mother of two children says she never would have sought the operation previously, but she and her husband agree that he and the children need her alive. She will later seek marrow transplants if one of her five siblings has compatible marrow. [Sources: BBC BBC
in full British Broadcasting Corp.
Publicly financed broadcasting system in Britain. A private company at its founding in 1922, it was replaced by a public corporation under royal charter in 1927. News, Inter Press Service Inter Press Service (abbreviated: IPS) is a global news agency. Its main focus is the production of independent news and analysis about events and processes affecting economic, social and political development. , 05/11/06; The Miami Herald, 05/11/06, 05/12/06; El Nuevo Herald El Nuevo Herald is a McClatchy newspaper published daily in Spanish in Miami, Florida, in the United States. The Herald's sister paper is The Miami Herald, also produced by the McClatchy Company. (Miami), The New York Times, 05/12/06; El Tiempo (Colombia), 05/10-12/06, 05/16/06, 05/17/06, 05/21/06, 05/22/06]