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People Are Not Happy With This Abortion on Demand Plan in Colombia

The proposal to allow abortion without restrictions during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy follows last weeks constitutional court ruling in favor of gay adoption.

by Joe Parkin Daniels
Nov 12 2015, 4:32pm

Imagen vía EPA

Colombia's politically independent attorney general has come under widespread attack by announcing he will be pushing to decriminalize abortion in the staunchly Catholic country.

Speaking at a conference in Bogota on Tuesday titled "Legal Abortion in Colombia: Present and Future", Eduardo Montealegre announced that he would put a draft bill to congress next week.

"This is not just a public policy but a policy that strengthens women's rights and their reproductive rights," he told the forum, before outlining his proposal which would allow abortion on demand during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

In order to be passed into law, the bill would have to go through congress and the senate, where it will meet tough opposition from conservative politicians.

Though unlikely to be approved, the proposal prompted an immediate outpouring of anger fuelled by the knowledge that the issue is likely to end up in the Constitutional Court. The court triggered right wing fury last week with its ruling in favor of gay adoption.

Related: Same-Sex Couples Can Now Adopt Children in Colombia

The prospect that abortion could follow the same route prompted many Colombians to take to social media to angrily equate the attorney general's proposal with legalizing murder.

Powerful Catholic leaders also expressed their disgust.

"We all want and crave from the bottom of our hearts that violence in our country is over," bishop José Daniel Falla Robles, general secretary of the Episcopal Conference of Colombia, said in a video message, referring to the decades of conflict between the state, leftist rebels, and right wing paramilitaries. "How is it that the attorney general is saying that we should murder our children?"

These sentiments were echoed by politicians from the Colombian right, such as David Barguil, head of the Conservative Party. "We are going to defend life in Colombia," he told reporters. "We will not accompany any initiative allowing abortion."

Abortion is currently illegal in Colombia except in cases of rape, incest, fetal malformation or if the life of the mother or fetus is in danger. Those exceptions were introduced in 2006 despite widespread protests, pictured above.

Around 300,000 illegal abortions are carried out annually in Colombia, according to ProFamilia, a local non-profit that campaigns for abortion rights. The World Health Organization says that 12% of maternal deaths across Latin America are the result of botched abortions.

Throughout Colombia's decades of civil conflict, women have been raped by all actors. The largest rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC - currently in peace talks in Havana, Cuba with the government - are known to have forced female combatants to terminate pregnancies.

The attorney general's bill is supported by women's rights activists such as Jineth Bedoya, who was kidnapped and raped by paramilitaries in 2000.

"Peace is not only the agreement between the FARC and the government," she told the conference. "What is happening with the bodies of women and what we are doing to really change the face of this nation from our homes, this is true peace."

Related: Childhood and War Crimes: Colombia Guerrilla Leader Gives Rare TV Interview

Follow Joe Parkin Daniels on Twitter: @joeparkdan