Abortion Case in Colombia Could Be a Landmark in Latin America

Over the last decade or so, Colombia has investigated 4,802 people for having or aiding in illegal abortions, according to the country’s attorney general. The vast majority of them were women. Just under 500 were younger than 18. Four were younger than 14.

The current case stems from a request for a review filed last year by Ms. Bernal, 43.

In 2014, Ms. Bernal said, she began to study abortion, connecting with American groups like the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform and Pro-Life Action League. At that time, she said, “I decided to dedicate myself to the unborn child.”

Over years of conversations with these groups, she said, she gathered a library of information — photographs, videos, studies — that convinced her that abortion methods were forms of torture.

Her request has opened a broader examination of the law.

In a breakfast with reporters last month, Colombia’s president, Iván Duque, said that the 2006 decision to provide exceptions was “a great advance,” but that he did not favor going beyond that ruling. In a country he described as having “excessive machismo,” Mr. Duque said he feared that abortion would become a default form of contraception.

Others in Bogotá related a similar struggle over how far the law should go.

Felipe Ríos, 38, a father of two who works in security in the presidential palace, said that a family member had an abortion recently after learning her pregnancy endangered her life. It was hard on the whole family, he said, though he supported the decision.

But he does not believe the practice should be allowed more widely. If a woman becomes pregnant, he said, “it’s a duty” to have the child. “I consider it braver for a woman to have the baby and put it up for adoption,” Mr. Ríos said.

Aixa Mejilla, 18, a student, said she grew up in a home for girls with families in difficult circumstances. She doesn’t think women should be forced to have children if they are not able or ready to care for them.

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