The Constitutional Court of Colombia has issued a decision of international significance clarifying legal duties of providers, hospitals, and healthcare systems when conscientious objection is made to conducting lawful abortion. The decision establishes objecting providers’ duties to refer patients to non-objecting providers, and that hospitals, clinics, and other institutions have no rights of conscientious objection.
Since the decriminalisation of abortion in 2006, women in Colombia have continued to seek clandestine abortions, endangering their health and contributing to maternal mortality and morbidity. The goal of this study was to explore physicians’ opinions towards and knowledge about legal abortion in Bogotá, Colombia, and key barriers to legal abortion access. We conducted 13 key informant interviews followed by a survey with a probability sample of 49 doctors working in public hospitals in Bogotá. Interview and survey data showed lack of technical experience in the provision of abortion and nuanced opinions towards its practice. Key informants described ignorance and lack of abortion training in medical schools as key barriers to provision. In the survey, 16 of 49 respondents had performed an abortion, 24 of 49 had referred a woman for an abortion and only 33 of 49 showed correct knowledge of the law.
On 3 March 2017, it was announced that Colombia’s Instituto Nacional de Vigilancia de Medicamentos y Alimentos (National Food and Drug Surveillance Institute, INVIMA) had approved the registration of mifepristone in Colombia for use in combination with misoprostol for induced abortion. According to the Gynuity Health Projects website, mifepristone has been available (up to June 2016) only in Guyana and Uruguay in South America. Profamilia, Colombia’s national family planning organisation, hope to begin providing … Continued
“Practices such as ‘preventing patients from having an abortion, providing misleading legal and medical information, and refusing to refer their patients, or to object on a case-by-case basis’ are exactly the kind of practices that fall into the category of barriers and unjustified denial of services not based on conscience, but on the sole fact of not agreeing with a woman’s decision and not recognizing her right to have an abortion.”
May 2016 is for us a month full of symbolism. It was ten years ago when the history of abortion in Colombia changed forever. The Constitutional Court recognized abortion as a fundamental right of all Colombian women on three grounds: when the pregnancy poses a risk to life or health of the woman, when there is severe fetal malformation and when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. Thanks to this ruling, abortion is for all Colombians a fundamental right.