Mon Jan 30, 2023
January 30, 2023

Will the fall of abortion rights in the United States affect Colombia?

Legally the answer is no, but politically yes, it will. Let’s see. 

By the Women’s Commission- PST Colombia

On February 21, 2022, the Colombian Constitutional Court, through ruling C055 or the “Causa Justa” ruling, eliminated the crime of abortion in Colombia up to 24 weeks of gestation (i.e., it can be performed at the woman’s will up to that gestational age), maintaining the three grounds in force since ruling C355 of 2006 beyond those weeks. This historic ruling, a product of the struggle of the women’s movement and the Causa Justa movement -but also a product of two years of intense social struggles materialized in the strikes of 2019 and 2021- is historic and turned the Colombian legal framework into one of the most advanced in the world. So far, its implementation has barely begun amidst countless barriers and obstacles.

On June 24, the Constitutional Court of the United States overturned the Roe v. Wade ruling, which is the name given to the decision that more than 50 years ago made abortion a right in the United States. It is a historic setback for women’s rights in the heart of imperialism and a hard blow, especially for the poorest, migrant, black, and the youngest women. It would allow abortion to be prohibited in at least 25 states, forcing the women who live there to travel long distances of up to 12 hours to the nearest clinic. Initial mobilizations in rejecting this decision manifested, and while groups are demanding we fight to win back this right back, the massive mobilization required has not emerged. The Court’s decision goes against the official discourse of Democratic President Joe Biden.

A few hours after the decision to annul Roe vs. Wade, the Ministry of Justice of Duque in Colombia sent a communication to the Colombian Constitutional Court requesting it to nullify C055 of 2022. This communication, without real juridical effects, has significant political effects. The existence of the right is called into question by public opinion, trying to show that it is not a “firm” decision; in a clear violation of the independence of powers of the bourgeois State. So far, the Constitutional Court is studying several appeals for annulment presented by different anti-rights sectors. According to Causa Justa spokeswomen, none of them have sufficient legal grounds to proceed with the repeal of the sentence. In Colombia, the annulment of constitutional rulings is exceptional, not to say impossible.

The speed with which the Ministry of Justice issued its communiqué after the U.S. ruling shows that both events are related and that the most reactionary sectors of the world bourgeoisie always coincide and support each other when eliminating rights.

 It is true that legally there are no solid arguments for the nullity of the sentence. The fall of abortion laws in the United States shows that judicial and court decisions do not depend on reason, science, common sense, and even less on justice, but on the correlation of forces at the political level. And that they are not “eternal.” No one expected that a court decision made almost 50 years ago, an acquired right considered certain, could be reversed. This is a hard blow and a powerful message: as long as the exploiters and oppressors hold power in the world, all our rights are at risk, and all gains can be rolled back. But this is not a doom message or full of hopelessness. Quite the contrary, the fight is just beginning, and just as the fall of the Roe v. Wade ruling proved to be neither eternal nor immutable, the ruling overturning it is not either. It will depend on the struggle of women and the working class in the United States to reverse it.

When we won our victory in February, we declared: “this victory must be protected by maintaining the struggle in the streets. Likewise, we are left with the great challenge of demanding its implementation and the elimination of barriers amid a privatized and underfunded health system; so the struggle will have to continue until abortion is fully decriminalized and until we have a quality public health system.” Today this proves to be profoundly correct and valid; to demobilize, to think that it is enough with the triumph obtained will allow the anti-rights agenda to advance and endanger our victories. If we back down in the struggle and adapt by relying on bourgeois institutions and laws, the same could happen in Colombia as did in the United States. If we keep up the struggle demanding full decriminalization and effective implementation, we will push in favor of our rights.

Today, as we are facing the inauguration of Petro and Francia, we call on those who are committed to upholding our right to an abortion to not abandon the streets or further organization. It is time to bolster the struggle and demand that the new government guarantee our rights by ensuring legal abortion and the right to health care for all people.

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