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HomeWorld NewsColombia becomes the latest Latin American country to partially decriminalize abortion

Colombia becomes the latest Latin American country to partially decriminalize abortion

On Monday, Colombia became the latest country in Latin America to partially decriminalize abortion. Having campaigned for two decades to remove abortion from the country’s criminal code, this marks a major shift in views towards the feminist movement across the region.

Teamwork is a word that many people seem to shrug off, however, teamwork seems to be exactly what made the dream of feminine freedom streamline through the public eye in the past two years. Columbia watched and learned from their feminist activist counterparts from other regions in Latin America. Following the achievement of legal abortions in Argentina came a shimmer of hope and a drive to do better. 

The origins of the pro-abortion movement, goes back to at least 1973 when Colombian gynecologist, Jorge Villarreal Mejía, accepted an invitation to visit the United States just as the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Roe v. Wade. Dr. Mejía had seen the atrocities of botched home-performed abortions and toured some of America’s earliest legal abortion clinics. Upon his return to Columbia, the doctor was fixed in the fact that he had to do more to help the women struggling, dying, and living in fear. That was when the Doctor created his version of an abortion clinic. 

Dr. Jorge Villarreal Mejía justified his practice to Columbian officials by claiming he was only helping the women who were either dying or harmed during either a botched or at-home operation. Many have a distaste for the clinic, however, it seemed to maintain its one motivator–the greater good. That was until, one day in 1994, when the police knocked down the clinic’s doors, guns were drawn, and they took off with patients’ records, beginning a legal process that lasted a decade and could have landed Dr. Villarreal in prison.

Shortly after the raid, it was time for Dr. Villarreal to retire, he handed the clinic down to his daughter Cristina Villarreal. It was then that she decided that they needed to go beyond providing medical help and begin uniting with feminist activists working to change the legal landscape in which they worked, “It doesn’t make sense for us to continue on two different roads, Now is the moment.” Soon, Ms. Villarreal and others had formed La Mesa por la Vida y la Salud de las Mujeres, a coalition whose main goal was to eliminate the law criminalizing abortion.

Around 2016, the women decided to take the world by storm. They wanted to invite the public to speak on this matter with intention of having the public voice amplify the deep injustice inflicted towards women with anti-abortion laws. Columbia and Argentina collaborated and learned for one another as the Colombians worked, Argentine feminists began a campaign to push legalization through Congress.

While the push for legalization was going through, Argentina conducted a green handkerchief march where the women gained the attention of the public and changed a recurring narrative, that of a green handkerchief. Their use of scarves was itself inspired by an earlier generation of female activists, called the Madres de Plaza de Mayo, who wore white kerchiefs to protest the kidnapping and killing of their children by the Argentine dictatorship. Columbian activist, Catalina Martínez told sources, “Part of our strategy was: How do we change the conversation in the country, how do we put this on the public agenda?” said Ms. Martínez, one of the Colombian activists. “And that’s what we learned from the Argentines.”

As Covid-19 devoured the world, many looked to their phones as an escape from the inescapable. During this time, they gained traction through their campaigns on Twitter, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook, alongside a radio campaign targeting areas with limited networks, and a reggaeton song that they performed in the streets.

As Columbia climbs the charts in successful activism, they hope to inspire the many who are just now losing what many consider human rights. In America, many fear what lies around the corner for abortion laws. On May 1, 2020, women that lived in the United States state of Texas were no longer legally permitted to abort. The law goes so far as to say that anyone can sue any woman who had gotten an abortion illegally. As Dr. Villarreal came and learned from the United States as he watched as Roe V. Wade got passed, America continues to shift its ideals from social ones to more totalitarian ones. 

The world has more than a lot to learn from the activists that made the two decades of fighting worth it, by finally giving their voice to the world and continuing to progress. On Monday, judges voted 5 to 4 in their favor, decriminalizing abortion up to 24 weeks.

Roe v. Wade was a precedent for nearly all of the activists surveyed, prompting them to believe that the legal system could be used to assist women in obtaining greater control over their lives. “This is a battle that is never completely won,” Ms. Villarreal advised her counterparts to the north. “You can’t let your guard down.”

Many of the activists that took part in the movement still stand starstruck and confused by the six-week abortion ban in Texas that went into commencement in 2021. They hope to inspire American women. 



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