Duque opposes legalization of abortion in Colombia

Abortion is a fiercely debated topic in Colombia, as it is elsewhere in Latin America, where the powerful Catholic church often exerts strong pressure on governments to ban the practice

Colombia's conservative President Ivan Duque questioned on Wednesday whether his country was ready to fully legalize abortion ahead of a debate in the Constitutional Court on whether to allow the practice in the first three months of a pregnancy.

Currently, like much of Latin America, Colombia allows abortion in three cases: a risk to the mother's life, if the fetus has a deformity and if the pregnancy was a result of rape.

"I'm pro-life. I believe life starts at conception," said Duque.

"Moving away from these three cases that are clear, seems to me a very strong change for Colombian society ... I think that moving away from this would be something very tough."

Rival marches for and against abortion took place on Wednesday ahead of an expected debate in the country's top court on whether or not to change the law.

According to press reports, magistrate Alejandro Linares is preparing an act that would authorize abortion in the first 12 or 16 weeks.

The Constitutional Court would then debate and vote on this act from February 26.

If five of the nine magistrates vote in favor of the act, it would become law.

According to Profamilia, a group that informs women about their abortion and contraception rights, there were 22,000 legal abortions in Colombia in 2019.

In Latin America only Cuba, Uruguay, Puerto Rico and Mexico City have fully legalized abortion in the first few weeks of a pregnancy.

In some countries it is totally banned, notably El Salvador where a woman can be jailed even for having a miscarriage.