Although abortion was previously decriminalised under three specific grounds in the Colombian legal framework, accessing the procedure is difficult. According to MSF’s 2019 report Unsafe Abortion, Women at Risk, 88 per cent of patients reported having faced at least one obstacle to accessing the termination of pregnancy, such as harassment or social stigma by family members and friends; economic or geographical obstacles; or a lack of information about the law regarding the voluntary termination of pregnancy.
MSF has also encountered serious limitations within the Colombian health system to guarantee access to safe abortion. 27 per cent of the women who came to MSF had previously been denied access to safe abortion in other health facilities and were also exposed to situations of abuse, prejudice, breach of confidentiality and misinformation.
“We have witnessed first-hand the emotional and psychological suffering caused by unwanted pregnancy and unsafe abortion,” says Sulaith Auzaque, an MSF doctor working in Chocó, Colombia. “This landmark ruling is an amazing step forward for all women in Colombia.”
While MSF welcomes this decision, health centres must now remove all barriers to access safe abortion care and family planning services, especially for young women and girls, and those living in areas of poverty, rural areas, and conflict zones.
NOTE TO EDITORS
MSF has been working in Colombia since 1985.
Our 2019 report “Unsafe abortion, Women at Risk, surveyed 428 women treated by MSF. The full report can be found at: https://www.msf.org/unsafe-abortion-women-risk-colombia-msf-report