Abortion in Colombia

Colombia now has some of the most liberal abortion laws in Latin America. In 2008, Colombia induced an estimated 400,400 abortions, of which only 322 were legal procedures or Voluntary Interruptions of Pregnancy (IVE) performed in healthcare facilities.
Statistics about the abortion situation in Colombia

What does the law say in Colombia?  

Abortion Rights

“The crime does not occur when the conduct is carried out before the 24th week of gestation and, subject to this limit, when the grounds referred to in Ruling C-355 of 2006 are present.”

Ruling C-055-22

In 2022, Colombia decriminalized abortion up to the 24th week of pregnancy (Ruling C-055). Therefore, people can request safe abortion services without meeting requirements or conditions. In this decision, the Colombian Constitutional Court recognized that abortion crimes violate the human rights of women, especially those who are vulnerable, like migrants. The particular mention of migrant population emphasises that it is not necessary to be a document resident of Colombia to access an abortion in the country [12].

A pregnant individual over 24 weeks of gestation who requires an abortion is only eligible for such a medical procedure if they fall under one of the three legal exceptions outlined in Ruling C-355/2006.

  • Pregnancy poses a threat to the life or health of a woman
  • As a result of sexual violence, unconsented insemination, or incest
  • If the fetus has a malformation that makes it incompatible with life

Law Compliance

Even though Colombia decriminalized abortion, women and girls face difficulties accessing abortion services. For instance, La Mesa Por La Vida y la Salud de Las Mujeres received many cases in the first 100 days of the Ruling C-055. A sizable number of the people they attended were Venezuelan women, most of whom do not have a regular migrant situation [8].

The number of women who have access to legal abortion since abortion is decriminalized in Colombia.

If people face difficulties accessing legal abortion services, they may contact La Mesa Por La Vida y la Salud de Las Mujeres. The organization provides free legal services to people who face obstacles in accessing abortion services but does not provide abortion services itself.

How many abortions are performed in Colombia?

Data and numbers of abortions in Colombia

The Guttmacher Institute estimated that 400,400 abortions are performed annually in Colombia [7]. However, health structures safely terminate 10% of pregnancies [10]. Meaning most abortions in Colombia are carried out in clandestine conditions, leading to serious health complications for women, mental burdens, criminalization, and increased inequalities. Unfortunately, due to the stigma surrounding abortion, many abortion seekers are reluctant to seek medical help after having an abortion, which means that the actual number of unsafe abortions is likely even higher than the estimates suggest.

Criticisms of these numbers

The Guttmacher Institute’s estimate of abortions is the most widely recognized figure in the country because of its reliability. However, the study generated controversy among academics in the country; according to Rubio and his team, the estimate created was unrealistic, and the number was much lower. The Guttmacher Institute responded to these criticisms by presenting the methodological development of their study and confirming that, according to scientifically based data approximately 400,400 abortions occur in Colombia annually.

Other organizations have collected the number of abortions performed at their facilities to determine the prevalence of abortion in the country.

Orientame
Profamilia
Las Parceras

What do people in Colombia believe?   

Opinion on abortion in Colombia

The decriminalization of abortion in Colombia has been controversial for many years. In Colombia, abortion is currently decriminalized up to 24 weeks of pregnancy. And there is a substantial amount of public support for the decriminalization of abortion. However, some people believe that it should be permitted in some instances. There is also a significant amount of opposition to the decriminalization of abortion. A small portion thinks it should never be allowed, regardless of the circumstance, and some people do not have clarity on this issue. There is no certainty that a consensus will soon be reached on abortion, as it is complex and divisive [11].

For more information about opinion of abortion in Colombia, there is a report available about abortion and stigma in Colombia.

Abortion seekers in Colombia

A study conducted by Profamilia provides demographic information on women who have requested legal abortions. Between August 2017 and 2018, they reviewed 15,016 abortion cases of women who have access to abortion using Mifepristone. Based on this information, abortion seekers were categorized according to their demographic characteristics [3].

*According to the study presented, the demographic information does not change when abortion seekers use a different abortion method

What abortion services are available in Colombia?                

Abortion Methods

Abortion with pills
Manual Vacuum Aspiration
Other in-clinic

Abortion with Mifepristone and Misoprostol at medical centres

Mifepristone has been available in Colombia since 2017 at Profamilia and Orientame[3][4]. Misoprostol is available in Colombia at pharmacies; however, most require a medical prescription.

Abortion with Misoprostol at home or at medical center

Misoprostol is the most common method of abortion in Colombia. According to a study, Misoprostol is available in Bogota and the Coffee Axxis in some pharmacies without a medical prescription. However, the study also points out that pharmaceutical dealers do not provide adequate information on how to use and what to expect from the pills [1], and healthcare providers lack awareness of abortion methods. 

Abortion services with pills can be accessed at Orientame and Profamilia

Telemedicine

Telemedicine is an effective and safe way to have an abortion; Mia is a platform offered by Profamilia. Users can schedule a virtual appointment with a health professional who will provide counseling for each particular case.

Which abortion pills are available in Colombia?

  • Mifepristone
    • Mediprist, 200 mg – ProFamilia (Distribuitor) [X]
  • Misoprostol
    • Cytotec, 200 µg – Pfizer
    • 
Cytil V, 25 µg – Tecnoquímicas
    • 
Cytil V, 50 µg – Tecnoquímicas
    • 
Cytil V, 200 µg – Tecnoquímicas

    • Industol, 200 µg – Tecnoquímicas [12]

Manual Vacuum Aspiration

Manual Vacuum Aspiration (MVA) is a medical procedure that suctions the contents of the uterus. The process is highly effective, and the person does not need to stay in the hospital. In Colombia, this method is practiced up to 15 weeks of pregnancy.

The case of Profamilia
The organisation Profamilia registered 6495 abortion by MVA between August 2017 to August 2018, during this same period of time they support 8523 with pills.

Orientame performs this method in Colombia. However, the procedure requires an appointment, and it has a cost of 655,000 Colombian pesos*.

*This information is from May 2022.

After 15 weeks, healthcare facilities can perform other abortion procedures. For more information, it is necessary to seek medical support.

How does the context affect abortion in Colombia?                         

Context and abortion

Abortion and the armed conflict

Colombia has been in a state of armed conflict since 1960. During that time, there have been different social changes and human rights violations, especially against historically vulnerable populations, such as girls, women, and the queer community. As a result of the recently signed peace agreement with the FARC-EP, the Peace Commission has begun clarifying some of the conditions that people with childbearing capacity have experienced, including the following:

  • Sexual Violence
  • Forced abortions
  • Forced contraception

It is impossible to quantify the number of people subjected to forced abortions, consented abortions, safe abortions, or unsafe abortions within the armed conflict. There is, however, evidence that abortion was regulated and mandated within the FARC-EP. Moreover, the reports present different abortion practices within the armed groups, portrayals of women being forced to abort using Misoprostol pills (Cytotec), reports of unsafe procedures, such as curettage and surgical procedures, and plant abortions [2].

Colombia has a low level of criminalization of non-consent abortions. Only 2.9% of abortion cases are filed with the Court in relation to this crime [5].

Venezuelan Migration

Venezuelans seeking abortions encounter more barriers to obtaining legal abortions. Not only do they face the stigma of abortion, but they also bear the stigma of migration. La Mesa por la Vida y la Salud de las Mujeres accompanied 154 women who requested a legal abortion between 2018 and 2021.

Abortion was legal in Colombia in cases of rape, incest, or danger to the pregnant woman’s life at the time. However, even when abortion was legal, it was difficult to obtain due to the high cost and lack of available providers. In addition, many women did not even know that abortion was legal under these circumstances [6].

Despite the possibility of telemedicine, this resource was only implemented by 3 Health promoting entities (out of 40) and was not widely used for abortion purposes. Moreover, the laboratory test and ultrasound exams required for the process were difficult to access, and abortion seekers frequently feared being infected [6].

 How did the pandemic influence abortion in Colombia?

Impact of COVID-19

Despite the possibility of telemedicine, this resource was only implemented by 3 Health promoting entities (out of 40) and was not widely used for abortion purposes. Moreover, the laboratory test and ultrasound exams required for the process were difficult to access, and abortion seekers frequently feared being infected [6].

It is evident in the registered cases of La Mesa por la Vida y la Salud de las Mujeres that abortion seekers face barriers. Between March and December 2020, the organization dealt with 111 cases compared to 55 in 2018 and 76 in 2019. [6]

Abortion was legal in Colombia in cases of rape, incest, or danger to the pregnant woman’s life at the time. However, even when abortion was legal, it was difficult to obtain due to the high cost and lack of available providers. In addition, many women did not even know that abortion was legal under these circumstances [6].

Despite the possibility of telemedicine, this resource was only implemented by 3 Health promoting entities (out of 40) and was not widely used for abortion purposes. Moreover, the laboratory test and ultrasound exams required for the process were difficult to access, and abortion seekers frequently feared being infected [6].

What is the data gap in Colombia?

What we don’t know

Although the health system has some data, NGOs deliver more critical information. However, to draw a complete picture of the abortion situation in Colombia, studies would require answering the following questions.

How many people are having abortions?
How many people are having unsafe abortions?
How many people did have forced abortion during the armed conflict?
How many queer people are having abortions?
How many people know the abortion law?
How many abortions are being performed after the decriminalisation?

*This page presents abortion data only for women and girls since the information available is usually not separated by gender. However, AbortionData.org acknowledges this limitation.

Where did we get the information?

Sources

[1] Ann M. Moore, Juliette Ortiz, Nakeisha Blades, Hannah Whitehead & Cristina Villarreal (2021) Women’s experiences using drugs to induce abortion acquired in the informal sector in Colombia: qualitative interviews with users in Bogotá and the Coffee Axis, Sexual and Reproductive Health Matters, 29:1, 146-161, DOI: 10.1080/26410397.2021.1890868

[2] La Mesa por la Vida y la Salud de las Mujeres (2021) Informe contextual sobre el aborto y la anticoncepción forzada a mujeres combatientes en el marco del conflicto armado. Bogotá, Colombia.

[3] Profamilia (2018) Mifepristona: desafíos y oportunidades un año después de la implementación en Colombia. Available at: https://clacaidigital.info/bitstream/handle/123456789/1388/Presentaci%C3%B3nmifepritsona.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

[4] Orientame (2022) Aborto con medicamentos en centro médico. Available at: https://orientame.org.co/abortar-en-centro-medico-con-medicamentos/

[5] La Mesa por la Vida y la Salud de las Mujeres (2021) La Criminalización del aborto en Colombia. Bogotá, Colombia.

[6] La Mesa por la Vida y la Salud de las Mujeres (2021) Barreras de acceso a la interrupción voluntaria del embarazo en el contexto de la pandemia por COVID-19. Bogotá, Colombia.

[7] Guttmacher Institute (2013) Datos sobre el embarazo no deseado y aborto inducido en Colombia. Available at: https://www.guttmacher.org/es/fact-sheet/unintended-pregnancy-and-induced-abortion-colombia

[8] La Mesa por la Vida y la Salud de las Mujeres (2022). Balance de los 100 días del fallo histórico: ¿Cómo va la implementación de la Sentencia C-055 de 2022? Bogotá, Colombia.

[9] La Mesa por la Vida y la Salud de las Mujeres (2022). Uno pasa por muchas cosas: Barreras de acceso a la IVE en mujeres refugiadas y migrantes venezolanas en Colombia.Bogotá, Colombia.

[10] Medecins Snas Frontierest (2019) Colombia: Unsafe abortion: women at risk. Available at: https://www.msf.org/unsafe-abortion-women-risk-colombia-msf-report

[11] Statista. Favorability toward legalization of abortion in Colombia in 2021. Available at: https://www.statista.com/statistics/1292674/favorability-toward-legalization-abortion-colombia/

[12] Abortion in Colombia | All you need to know about abortions. (s. f.). https://safe2choose.org/abortion-information/countries/colombia

AbortionData.org

AbortionData.org

AbortionData.org is a platform to eliminate misinformation, myths, and fears surrounding abortion in the world by producing, sharing, and making accessible accurate information about abortion.

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