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Colombia high court legalizes exceptions to abortion law

[JURIST] The Constitutional Court of Colombia [official website; government backgrounder, in Spanish] has handed down a decision [WLW press release, PDF] legalizing exceptions to the country's abortion ban in cases of rape, incest and if the life of the mother or fetus is in danger. Before Wednesday's ruling, women undergoing an abortion procedure and doctors performing the procedure could be criminally charged and sentenced to jail time, although the punishment for abortions necessitated by rape were less harsh. Colombian President Alvaro Uribe Velez [BBC profile] has expressed concern that women will seek out abortions when the exceptions do not apply. Uribe faces a presidential contest later this month against opponents who support broader abortion rights in the mostly Roman Catholic country, where an estimated 400,000 illegal abortions are performed annually.

Women's Link Worldwide (WLW) [advocacy website] first filed the constitutional challenge to the abortion law in April 2005, with Human Rights Watch filing an amicus brief [text, in Spanish]. The court dismissed the challenge on procedural grounds, but quickly accepted an amended complaint upon which it made its decision. El Salvador and Chile are now the only countries in Latin America with a complete ban on abortion [JURIST news archive]. AP has more. From Medellin, El Mundo has local coverage, in Spanish.

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