On 14 March 2005, Women’s Link Worldwide publicly launched a bold and innovative challenge to the Constitutional Court of Colombia, asking the judges to liberalise the country’s abortion law, which outlawed the procedure under all circumstances.
The project on High Impact Litigation in Colombia for the Unconstitutionality of Abortion (LAICIA according to its name in Spanish) started with the preparation of three main strategies (legal, alliances and communications) in the summer of 2004 and ended on 10 May 2006 when the Constitutional Court issued a historic decision. The Court, in decision C-355/06, ruled that abortion is a constitutional right for women and should not be considered a crime under three circumstances:
- when the life or health (physical and mental) of the woman is in danger
- when pregnancy is a result of rape or incest
- when grave fetal malformations make life outside the uterus unviable.
With a positive decision in hand, Women’s Link started a new project called ‘Ensuring Reproductive Rights in Colombia: From Constitutional Court Success to Reality’. This project was based on the premise that every time there is a major legal change, it is crucial to closely monitor the way in which the new laws are being received and accepted (or not) by different sectors of society. This is even more important when the issue at hand is as polemical and complex as abortion and the opposition is always looking for new avenues to neutralise or invalidate legal achievements.
Women’s Link initiated a series of activities in Colombia in order to follow up on the Court’s decision to liberalise abortion. This work is framed in two main areas: ensuring the proper implementation of the new legal framework, and protecting and strengthening the judicial decision that brought this change. This article reflects on the roadblocks to implementation and on some of the broader lessons that might be drawn from efforts to overcome them.
This article comes from the IDS Bulletin 39.3 (2008) From Constitutional Court Success to Reality: Issues and Challenges in the Implementation of the New Abortion Law in Colombia