Department of Philosophy & Centre for the History of Medicine and Disease, Durham University, Durham, UK.
During a highly contested process, abortion was partially decriminalised in Colombia in 2006 by the Constitutional Court: when the pregnancy threatens a woman's life or health, in cases of severe fetal malformations incompatible with life, and in cases of rape, incest or unwanted insemination. However, Colombian women still face obstacles to accessing abortion services. This is illustrated by 36 cases of women who in 2006-08 were denied the right to a lawful termination of pregnancy, or had unjustified obstacles put in their path which delayed the termination, which are analysed in this article. We argue that the obstacles resulted from fundamental disagreements about abortion and misunderstandings regarding the ethical, legal and medical requirements arising from the Court's decision. In order to avoid obstacles such as demands for a judge's authorisation, institutional claims of conscientious objection, rejection of a claim of rape, or refusal of health insurance coverage for a legal termination, which constitute discrimination against women, three main strategies are suggested: public ownership of the Court's decision by all Colombian citizens, a professional approach by those involved in the provision of services in line with the law, and monitoring of its implementation by governmental and non-governmental organisations.
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