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Women’s Rights in Latin America

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It’s nice that Latin America is moving the right way on reproductive justice. That this is happening at the same time that a tiny of group of far-right Catholic extremists take over the American Supreme Court is the irony of ironies. But maybe we can send American women to Mexico or Colombia to save their lives:

Having an abortion is no longer a crime under Colombian law, the country’s top court ruled on Monday, in a decision that paves the way for the procedure to become widely available across this historically conservative, Catholic country.

The ruling by Colombia’s Constitutional Court follows years of organizing by women across Latin America for greater protections and more rights, including access to abortion, and significant shifts in the region’s legal landscape.

Mexico’s Supreme Court decriminalized abortion in a similar decision in September and Argentina’s Congress legalized the procedure in late 2020. Colombia’s decision means that three of the four most populous countries in Latin America have now opened the door to more widespread access to abortion.

It also comes as the United States has been moving in the opposite direction, with abortion restrictions multiplying across the country, and the U.S. Supreme Court considering a case that could overrule Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that established a constitutional right to abortion.

In a region historically known for its Catholic faith and social conservatism, a growing push for women’s rights and abortion access gained prominence a little more than a year ago when Argentina became the largest nation in Latin America to legalize abortion.

Soon, abortion rights supporters across the region, from Mexico to Paraguay, Brazil to Colombia, were wearing or brandishing green handkerchiefs — the symbol of Argentina’s abortion rights movement — to show their solidarity with women’s sexual and reproductive rights. The handkerchiefs became symbols of the work that women’s rights lawyers and activists had been doing more quietly for years.

The Argentina decision reverberated across Latin America, showing that it was possible to legalize abortion in countries with strong Catholic and evangelical Protestant beliefs and a history of patriarchal ideals.

In September, Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional to make abortion a crime, helping to clear the way for the legalization of the procedure in the country of about 130 million people.

Can’t Amy Coney Barrett save the babies there too?

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