On July 10, 2020, the world was still paralyzed by the coronavirus pandemic. In a small town in Santander, in eastern Colombia, a 15-year-old adolescent was marked by the judicial system: “homicide to the degree of abortion.” Months earlier, one morning in January, the minor was found in the bathroom of her house bleeding, after taking an abortifacient medication. I was seven months pregnant. The account, detailed in a judicial file to which this newspaper has had access, says that the Police transferred her and the baby to a clinic; that the young woman never told her family that she was pregnant for fear of their reaction; that the baby passed away and that she accepted the charges.
Neither the Prosecutor’s Office, the Family Defender nor the judge were concerned about the minor’s health status, nor about whether it was within the three causes allowed for abortion in Colombia since 2006: if she had been abused, if the pregnancy had put his life at risk or had a malformation. Instead, the prosecutor argued that he did not care if she was “a day, a week, seven or eight months (pregnant),” and scolded the parents: “What is most strange is to see what a daughter of a Catholic marriage, ”he told them.
In Colombia, the Penal Code orders penalties of between 16 and 54 months for women who abort, but minors have a special regime. The adolescent was sentenced to assisted freedom and to receive psychological and therapeutic treatment to “guide the minor to control his sexual impulses.”
This is not an isolated case. At the beginning of 2016, in the border city of Cúcuta, another minor felt that the world was falling on her. I was late. “I was studying and the economic situation in my house was very precarious,” he told a court, in which he narrated that he began to investigate how to interrupt his six-week pregnancy “without so much risk.” “While researching, I came across a website and contacted them. The person who answered me told me to send 80,000 pesos ($ 21). When they confirmed my transfer, they sent me the pills with a domiciliary and they gave me the instructions, “said the 17-year-old teenager. After two days with cramps and bleeding, she decided to go to a clinic. There they determined that she had a withheld abortion and, seeing that she was a minor, they called the police.
A story similar to that of another 17-year-old girl, who went to the hospital with complications and was reported by a nurse, or that of a 15-year-old who, after a year of exhausting judicial process, accepted the murder charges. The ingredients that come together in almost all the stories of minors prosecuted for abortion are similar. Data taken from the internet of dubious reliability, sellers of pills, lack of information that puts their lives at risk, police officers who interrogate them, doctors or nurses who report them, family defenders, prosecutors or judges who force them to long judicial processes.
According to a report by the Mesa por la Vida y la Salud de la Mujer and the Universidad de los Andes, minors are more persecuted and punished for the crime of abortion than women of other age ranges. According to the study The criminalization of abortion in ColombiaOf the 355 convictions against women between 2006 and 2019 in the country, 81 correspond to minors between the ages of 14 and 17. “12.5% of the persecuted cases (5,737 abortion investigations) involve underage women, 25% of those finally convicted (the term sanctioned is strictly used) are minors,” the document states.
For the Causa Justa feminist movement, which groups together almost 100 women’s organizations, the elimination of the crime of abortion in the Criminal Code that the Constitutional Court is studying these days would allow adolescents like these to have secure information in legal clinics that did not put their lives at risk. lives.
From the point of view of health, maternal deaths could be avoided, affirms obstetrician Laura Gil, from the Medical Group for the Right to Decide, one of the organizations that brought the case before the Court to eliminate the crime. “In these twelve years of partial decriminalization we had the Law to avoid 500 maternal deaths and the barriers prevented it. With the elimination of crime, we would greatly reduce unsafe abortions, ”he says.
From the legal sphere, costly processes that do not contribute to preventing or dissuading women from abortion would also be avoided, as Catalina Martínez, director for Latin America and the Caribbean of the Center for Reproductive Rights, explains. “There is an excessive use of criminal law in relation to abortion and it has been proven that the crime is not effective nor has it served to protect the pregnancy.”
Subscribe here to the newsletter feminist from EL PAÍS América, ‘Americanas’.