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Challenge to Colombia’s Restrictive Abortion Laws Promotes Human Rights and Social Justice

April 14, 2005

Statement of Frances Kissling, President, Catholics for a Free Choice

SANTA FE DE BOGOTÁ—Today a Colombian citizen will challenge the country’s abortion laws, which are among the world’s most restrictive, in the Constitutional Court. Catholics for a Free Choice applauds Colombian attorney Mónica Roa for this courageous act in support of the life, liberty and human dignity of every woman in Colombia.

Currently, Colombia outlaws abortion under all circumstances. This challenge would loosen those restrictions and legalize abortion in the most extreme cases: when the woman’s life or health is in danger, the pregnancy is the result of rape, and/or when the fetus has malformation incompatible with life outside the womb.

Colombia’s Catholics, who comprise 90 percent of the population, support the liberalization of its abortion laws. In September 2003, CFFC, Cátolicas por el Derecho a Decidir-Colombia and Napoléon Franco y Cia S.A. conducted a poll of 1,523 adults to learn the attitudes of Catholics on reproductive rights in Colombia. The poll demonstrated that Colombians support access to legal abortion when:

  • The woman’s life is in danger (73%),
  • The woman’s health is at risk (65%),
  • The fetus has severe abnormalities (61%), and
  • The pregnancy is the result of rape (52%).
    (+/- 2.5 percentage points)

The Catholic tradition is based on respect for the conscience of each individual person. Church law recognizes the right of Catholics to follow their conscience, even when their decision disagrees with a teaching of the church. The record of respect for human rights demonstrated by the Constitutional Court of Colombia is legendary in the region and in the international human rights community. We are certain that it will respond to Attorney Roa’s recommendations with the judicial independence and interests of Colombia’s women that have marked so many of its historic decisions.