MADRE joined the Human Rights and Gender Justice (HRGJ) Clinic at CUNY School of Law to submit a brief to the Colombian Constitutional Court in support of a case that would decriminalize abortion in all circumstances. Along with the HRGJ Clinic, MADRE submitted the brief with the Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID), Center for Constitutional Rights, Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, OutRight Action International, Women Enabled International, and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF). The case, brought by Causa Justa, a coalition of Colombian organizations, argues that abortion should be removed from the Colombian penal code and instead regulated by health laws. The court could rule on the case in the coming months.
Currently, abortion is only legal in Colombia in instances of rape, incest, or endangerment of the mother’s health. In September 2020, the Causa Justa movement filed a lawsuit before the Colombian Constitutional Court arguing that criminalizing abortion in all other circumstances creates a misconception that abortion is always illegal, which leads to a lack of access to abortion and stigma when obtaining services. This not only deters those needing an abortion from seeking one, but it also deters health providers from offering abortion services for fear of violating criminal law.
MADRE and our partners’ brief focuses on international law and argues that while Colombia has made strides towards protecting reproductive rights since 2006, significant barriers to accessing safe and legal abortion in the country remain. These barriers are in violation of international human rights law, specifically the rights to equality and non-discrimination and to be free from torture and cruel, in human or degrading treatment (other ill-treatment).
Partially decriminalizing abortion has done little to reduce abortion-related stigma and discrimination and continues to chill the provision of legal abortion services. As a result, all people who can become pregnant, particularly those most marginalized, continue to lack access to safe abortion services in violation of a wide range of their human rights.
MADRE supports the Causa Justa coalition and its efforts through this lawsuit to declare the abortion regulation under the penal code unconstitutional. The coalition also demands that the Colombian government provide access to safe abortions throughout the country and guarantee the full rights of women, girls, and all persons who can become pregnant as provided by international human rights law.