Colombia's abortion campaign under attack

Posted: 14 October 2005

A Colombian lawyer, Monica Roa, who has been leading the challenge to the country's strict abortion laws, says that as well as facing opposition from the anti-choice movement and the Catholic Church, her campaign was being undermined by the administration of President George Bush and its controversial 'Mexico City' policy which bans overseas aid for groups that support abortion.

"I have had lots of people saying they support what I am doing but they cannot say so publicly. People cannot speak about it. They lose their funding from USAID (US Agency for International Development) that goes to other projects in Colombia.

Figures from Colombia's Social Welfare Ministry indicate that about 300,000 illegal abortions are performed every year in the country. Ms Roa said these 'backstreet abortions' were the third-highest cause of mortality for women in Colombia. A 1991 study suggested that 25 per cent of all women's deaths were caused by toxaemia, a condition where toxins enter the bloodstream because of high blood pressure, brought on by the illegal abortion.

Jose Galat, the rector of the Roman Catholic Great Colombia University, who has compared abortion to the massacres during Colombias long civil war said Roa's opponents had submitted a two-million-signature petition to the Constitutional Court urging Magistrates to maintain the existing laws. The court is expected to rule within two months.

In Colombia, Profamilia Colombia, one of the country's largest family-planning groups, used to be an outspoken critic of the country's abortion ban. These days, dependent for half of its funding on the US, the group refuses to comment.

Frances Kissling, President of the Washington-based group Catholics for a Free Choice, said a poll in 2003 showed that most Colombians support legal abortion when the woman's life is in danger, her health is at risk, the foetus has severe abnormalities or pregnancy is the result of rape.

Source: The Independent newspaper,London, reported in Push Journal October 13, 2005.

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