Reaching the moveable middle on abortion in Latin America
By Mónica Roa of Women’s Link Worldwide, originally published at Open Society Foundations (available here)
In Colombia, as in much of Latin America, simply legalizing abortion often isn’t enough. September 28 is the Global Day of Action for Access to Safe and Legal Abortion, a movement that originated in Latin America and the Caribbean, and has since spread throughout the world.
It unfolded like the plot of a Hollywood thriller: a phone tap targeting a Colombian hacker who was obtaining information about the FARC guerrilla group happened to pick up a phone call placed by the hacker’s sister-in-law: a famous Colombian actress, who, according to authorities, discussed her abortion on that call.
On a Friday earlier this month, the prosecutor’s office announced they would charge the actress with illegal abortion. The following Monday, they retracted amid national outcry over an egregious case of state surveillance. The fiasco raised serious questions about the interpretation and implementation of Colombia’s current abortion law, which has permitted abortions in certain cases for over nine years…
The list of Latin American countries where therapeutic abortion is permitted is growing… Working to get abortion recognized as a right is a thorny task. Any progress we make is seen as too little by some, a bridge too far by others, and irrelevant by many. We strive to construct a narrative that goes against deeply entrenched stigma and centuries of religious and legal tradition in order to create a place for women’s autonomy and freedom in contemporary society.
Sometimes it feels like we are fighting to change frustratingly immovable forces. And then there are moments – like those three days in Colombia when the country came together to castigate the prosecutor for violating this actress’s rights – when we see how far we’ve come in almost 10 years
The middle is moving, and it’s making a difference in women’s lives.