Colombia could become the fifth country in Latin America and the Caribbean to legalize abortion, as its Constitutional Court is expected to rule on the issue this week. But the court’s decision to debate the removal of abortion from the Colombian penal code is yet another show of force from the Marea Verde (Green Tide) movement. Over the past decade, he has pushed for historic changes across a region with some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the world.
What’s Going On In Colombia?
In 2006, abortion was legalized in Colombia, but only in cases of rape or incest, a serious genetic malformation of the fetus, or risk to the life of the mother.
Last year, however, Causa Justa (Just Cause) – a group of more than 50 pro-abortion organizations – took legal action to challenge the legality of the current restrictions.
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One of their main arguments is that even women entitled to legal abortion in Colombia face obstacles in obtaining it. In fact, the non-governmental organization Médecins sans frontières (MSF) carried out 2019 a survey of 428 Colombian women whose cases met legal requirements. She finds that 88% of them have encountered problems obtaining an abortion.
Just Cause also notes that the number of annual cases of women accused of abortion offenses has skyrocketed since 2006.
According to the NGO, criminalization is helping fuel an underground abortion industry – MSF estimates that only 10% of abortions in Colombia are “performed safely in health facilities”.
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This historic legal action would remove the barriers and stigma that prevent women and girls from accessing the reproductive health care they need and end the unjust persecution of women and girls in Colombia,” said Catalina Martínez Coral, senior regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean for the NGO Center for Reproductive Rights, in a statement.
“The decriminalization of abortion is a necessary advance for women’s rights and an essential step in providing safe abortion throughout Colombia,” she adds.
Qu el l I e n with the movement Sea of Green?
It is no coincidence that Just Cause adopts green as the color of its campaign, like what is happening in Argentina.
In the early 2000s, women’s rights activists in this country began to push for the legalization of abortions.
They borrow a sheet from the Grandmothers’ book in the Plaza de Mayo.
This human rights movement gained international fame by wearing white scarves during regular demonstrations to denounce the assassination of political activists and the kidnapping of their children during the military regime in Argentina (1976-1983) – they were previously called the Mothers of the Place.
The pro-abortion activists kept the scarves but changed color. In a 2018 interview with Argentine newspaper La Nacion, anthropologist and activist Miranda Gonzalez Martin explains that green was “the only option available” in a visible spectrum of colors – some had historically been associated with political parties.
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“Purple is the color of feminism and orange is used by the (Catholic) Church,” she says.
“The scarves have enormous meaning for women in Argentina and are also a very visible symbol.”
What Has The Movement Achieved So Far?
The Green Tide movement begins nearly four decades after Cuba became the first country in Latin America and the Caribbean to legalize abortion for all women. The movement’s first big success came in 2012, when Uruguay also legalized abortion for all women, allowing terminations of pregnancy for up to 12 weeks.
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Argentina’s turn comes in December 2020, when Congress legalizes abortions until the 14th week of pregnancy.
In Chile, where a total ban on abortions was lifted in 2017, lawmakers approve a plan to debate a bill proposing the legalization of the termination of pregnancy for up to 14 weeks, although it faces a long process before it can become law. Even so, the Center for Reproductive Rights estimates that 97% of Latin American women of reproductive age live in countries with restrictive abortion laws. The list includes Brazil, the most populous country in Latin America.