Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Colombia decriminalizes abortion (Feb. 22, 2022)

Colombia's Constitutional Court decriminalized abortion up to 24 weeks yesterday. The historic ruling that bolsters Latin America's "green wave" of support for reproductive rights, following legalization in Argentina and decriminalization in Mexico, and is a sign of feminist activists' increasing muscle in the region.

The ruling means that any woman should be able to seek the procedure from a health professional without fear of criminal prosecution, reports the New York Times. It also means Colombian lawmakers and the executive branch must create a public policy to regulate access to elective abortion and avoid barriers in the health-care system, reports La Silla Vacía. The ruling puts Colombia among the countries in the world with the widest window for legal abortion, alongside the U.S. and the Netherlands.

A coalition of over 100 Colombian abortion rights groups, collectively known as Causa Justa, sued to have abortion removed from the penal code. The coalition's lawyers argued that criminalization had cast abortion in such a negative light that it prevented even women with a legal right to an abortion from getting one, reports the New York Times. The movement had previously seen the constitutional court decide not to rule on the matter several times in the past two years, reports the Guardian.

The decision has immediate impact for more than 5,000 women who face legal proceedings for abortion -- those that took place in the 24-week window will now be dropped, reports La Silla Vacía. Nonetheless, Colombia's court and independent studies have found significant barriers to accessing abortions even in cases where it was legal until now -- rape, nonviable pregnancy and danger to life or health of mother -- which puts the onus on policy makers to effectively guarantee access to reproductive rights. Between 2006 and 2020, the court heard, nearly 3,000 people were prosecuted for having an abortion and at least 346 people have been convicted in such cases since 2006.

More than 90 groups filed a lawsuit in September 2020, arguing that the criminalization of abortion exacerbates the stigma around the procedure and creates barriers to access, even for patients who qualify under the exemptions.The constitutional court was legally obligated to issue a ruling on abortion by mid-November 2021. But the decision was delayed because the court was evenly split. The judge assigned to break the tie voted in favor of decriminalization, yesterday, reports the Washington Post.

News Briefs

  • At least 650 migrants died crossing the U.S.-Mexico border in 2021, according to the International Organization for Migration, a United Nations agency that monitors migration. The figure marks an all-time annual high since the U.S. government began reporting U.S.-Mexico border deaths in 1998, reports the Conversation. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • Former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is maintaining his lead in polls ahead of October's presidential elections. A new poll this week gives him 42 percent support, compared to 28 percent for incumbent President Jair Bolsonaro. The polls leave little room for a possible third-way challenger, reports Reuters.

  • Major mining companies are seeking to expand to currently protected indigenous lands in Brazil's Amazon rainforest, bolstered by billions of dollars in financing from international banks and investment firms, according to a new report by Amazon Watch and the Association of Brazil's Indigenous Peoples (APIB). The firms appear to be betting that Bolsonaro, who has pushed to open protected lands to mining and agribusiness, will succeed in passing legislation that would allow them to operate on indigenous territories, reports AFP.

  • A trans teenager was shot and killed point-blank in Sergipe, Brazil, one of the most dangerous countries in the world to be trans, reports Pink News.

  • The Inhotim Institute, a contemporary art museum in Brumadinho, Brazil, has provided a home for the "Black Art Museum," the realization of a dream held for decades by the Afro-Brazilian artist and civil rights activist Abdias do Nascimento. (New York Times)
  • Haiti's government hiked the minimum wage yesterday by as much as 54 percent, following weeks of demonstrations by garment workers who say their wages are not enough to keep up with the rising cost of living. (Reuters)
  • Mexico's Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación is making inroads in Guatemala, reports El Faro
  • Three retired Colombian army commanders have been accused of belonging to a criminal network that served the Urabeños drug clan, in a case illustrating how the highest ranks of Colombia's armed forces continue to be accused of colluding in trafficking activities, reports InSight Crime.
  • A colossal seizure of more than 10,000 cannabis plants in the western provinces of Salta and Jujuy in Argentina provides evidence that marijuana growers are trying to spread the illicit crop to new parts of the country, reports InSight Crime.
  • An iconic Moai statue from Easter Island began its journey back home yesterday, 152 years after being removed and taken to Santiago, Chile. The return of the statue comes after a years-long campaign to have it returned to Rapa Nui, as Easter Island is known locally, reports Reuters.
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...

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