Friday, June 5, 2015

The Decision is Yours?

Profamilia, the well-known family planning and reproductive health organization, says it only wants girls and women to know that Colombian law gives them the right to an abortion in several specific circumstances.

But abortion opponents allege that the NGO's latest campaign, 'La decisión es tuya' (The decision is yours), on posters on Medellin's subway, is rather an invitation to abort.

Image from Twitter: @Cluna85 
In 2006, the Constitutional Court legalized abortion in cases where the pregnancy endangers the woman's life, when the fetus has a severe malformation or when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.

However, despite the relative frequency of these circumstances, no more than 1,500 legal abortions have been performed in a single year, 2010, and only 26 in 2012 and '13, according to the minister of health. That means that more than 99.9% of abortions performed in Colombia are illegal, according to the pro-choice Guttmacher Institute - and many of those are unsafe. As a result, more than 90,000 women seek medical help every year for post-abortion complications, according to Guttmacher.

But does Profamilia's campaign encourage women to seek abortions only in the legal circumstances? While Profamilia officials insist that's true, critics say it encourages abortion-on-demand and have called for Medellin's subway system to remove the posters. The subway has refused.

Profamilia's website sets a broad definition for the health exception to the abortion prohibition, including cases where the pregnancy "affects mental health." Another abortion provider, Orientame, goes even further on its website, asserting that "anguish, depression, insomnia or other emotional or physical affects," constitute legal justification to abort. I've got news for Orientame: I'm not pregnant nor ever have been, but have at times experienced anguish, depression, insomnia and various other emotional problems.

Legalizing abortion is a positive thing, if only because when prohibited abortion happens anyway, just in more dangerous conditions. But, in a mostly conservative, highly Catholic, society, abortion activists should be cautious about pushing the limits of abortion rights for fear of producing a backlash.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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