In May 2006, Colombia's Constitutional Court handed down a historic decision, voting 5-3 to decriminalize abortion in cases where a pregnant woman's life or health was in danger, in cases where the pregnancy was a result of rape or incest, and in cases of severe fetal malformation. The decision, which came in response to a case brought by Colombian lawyer Monica Roa, was a watershed for Colombia—one of the few countries in the world where abortion had been illegal under any circumstances up until then, despite the fact that between 350,000 and 400,000 Colombian women still sought clandestine abortions every year.
First, it grounded the decision in the norms established by a number of international and regional human rights instruments to which Colombia (among others) is accountable. And second, it placed women's human rights, with a particular emphasis on their sexual and reproductive rights, at the center of its justification for decriminalizing abortion. Which makes it, like, 80 times more progressive than Roe v. Wade, by the way. Women's Link Worldwide, the organization that supported Roa's case, has recently translated the most groundbreaking excerpts of the Court's 600-page decision into English, and posted the document on their website together with an excellent foreword by Rebecca J. Cook, a feminist and human rights scholar at the University of Toronto. Highlights follow.