Colombia decriminalizes abortion through 24 weeks

Colombia’s highest court voted on Monday to decriminalize abortion up to 24 weeks, a victory for abortion rights groups in a long legal battle.

Supporters, many wearing green for the abortion rights movement and with some in tears, celebrated outside the court.

"This brings us immense happiness because little by little we are changing our history. We finally succeeded in having them allow us to decide over our bodies. we fought for this for many years, as (clandestine abortions) took the lives of so many women."

The decision adds Colombia to a list of Latin American countries, which have recently liberalized abortion access, including Mexico and Ecuador.

Abortion was partially legalized in Colombia in a 2006 court decision to allow it only in cases of rape, fatal fetal deformity and for the health of the woman, without time limits.

Monday’s ruling was backed by five of nine judges on the constitutional court.

In a statement the court said, "The practice of abortion will only be punishable when it is conducted after the twenty-fourth week of gestation and, in all cases, this time limit will not apply to the three conditions laid out in [the 2006 ruling].”

The court added Congress and the national government must urgently protect the rights of pregnant women through family planning services, eliminating obstacles to abortion care and help with adoptions.

The coalition that led the case for decriminalization, estimates around 90 percent of abortions in Colombia take place secretly, putting women’s lives at risk when they seek alternatives to a doctor.