BY: Human Rights & Gender Justice Clinic | DATE: Feb 22, 2022

Colombia’s highest Constitutional Court issued a ruling today that removes abortion from the criminal code, ending the threat of imprisonment for both patients and doctors and could drastically improve access to safe abortion procedures for Colombians.

The case decided today, brought by Causa Justa, a coalition of Colombian organizations, argued that abortion should be removed from the Colombian penal code and instead regulated by health laws.

The students and faculty of CUNY Law’s Human Rights and Gender Justice (HRGJ) Clinic submitted an amicus brief in support of decriminalization in all circumstances to the Colombian Supreme Court. The brief focuses on international law and argues that significant barriers to accessing safe and legal abortion in the country remain. These barriers violate international human rights law, specifically the rights to equality and non-discrimination and to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. HRGJ’s amicus brief was cited in El Tiempo, a major newspaper of Colombia.

The brief was submitted with MADRE, the Association for Women’s Rights in Development, Center for Constitutional Rights, Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, OutRight Action International, Women Enabled International, and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.

Since 2006, it has been legal in Colombia to terminate pregnancies in instances of rape or incest, fetal non-viability, or threat to the life or health of the pregnant person. However, the potential of 16 to 54 months in prison prevents people from seeking abortions and doctors from providing them―even when doing so is legal. In fact, 400 people are prosecuted annually for terminating a pregnancy.

The court’s decision decriminalizes abortions in the first 24 weeks of pregnancy, allowing all people access to the procedure from a health professional without fearing criminal prosecution.

“Today’s ruling paves the way for greater protections and more rights, allowing abortion to become widely available across the country. This is a historic moment in the reproductive justice discourse,” said Professor Lisa Davis of the HRGJ Clinic.


Access the amicus brief in Spanish

Access the amicus brief in English