• July 20th, 2024
  • Saturday, 06:50:15 AM

Reproductive Justice, A Global Public Health Issue

Photo: Author Karen Gutiérrez


Karen Gutiérrez


As a social communicator, journalist, woman and mother of two girls, I feel I have the capacity, the moral right and the social responsibility to share with you, such an important, crucial and fundamental topic in today’s society: reproductive justice.


Many people and unfortunately many women in the world may not know what this term is about, some understand, but it is more complex than everyone thinks. To have an opinion on this, you have to know what it’s about, and in simple terms, it is to be able to make our own decisions as women, healthy decisions about our bodies, our mental and physical health, our sexuality, our feelings, and our conception of family.


All of this is also linked to social issues, political and economic agendas, and government agendas of each country. Reproductive justice activists seek to recognize the importance of treating abortion as a public health issue that concerns us and involves everyone as the right to health, education and housing.


Reproductive justice activists seek to recognize the importance of treating abortion as a public health issue that concerns us and involves everyone as the right to health, education and housing.


In my country (Colombia), last November 19th, the Constitutional Court’s ruling on the decriminalization of abortion was postponed, a historic position that would put the country as the first in Latin America to eliminate it from the criminal code. This is a crime that results in three to four years in prison for approximately 400 women every year. With the suspension of this ruling, Colombia loses the opportunity to join the countries that have decided in favor of allowing women the right to decide about their bodies and to have reproductive justice.


In 2006, progress was made in terms of the Colombian penal code and three fundamental circumstances were recognized in which a woman can make the voluntary decision to interrupt the conception of an “unborn” fetus: rape, serious malformation of the fetus that is unviable, or imminent risk to the physical and mental health of the woman.


In a society like the Colombian society in which 97% of the people are recognized believers and with the weight against a conservative society and rooted in Latin American cultures like ours in which its’ majorities confess to be religious and in fear of Gods, who call themselves Provida and in spite of even bypassing rights acquired by women who have had to live lamentable situations such as abuse and sexual mistreatment, the detriment of their health during gestation, the economic incapacity to support themselves due to their economic condition and to this add one more life on the way, in underdeveloped countries of Latin America like mine, particularly speaking, they make us see in terms of degrees of importance that the life of the unborn is worth more than that of the woman in adulthood who has invested time and sacrifice throughout her existence.


When populist governments come to power pretending to touch such important issues as abortion, which should be reviewed and evaluated by pregnant women, they change rules and continue to leave the decisions of rulings such as this in the hands of officials who have no physical or moral capacity to decide on such situations, only in order to get a few more votes in their favor in the next political campaigns, makes it much more difficult for societies and especially women to decide on our own body and the progress required in legislation.


In recent years, and with the growth of some feminist movements in Colombia, even though they have tried to stigmatize them, a change of mentality in terms of gender equality and reproductive rights has taken place, allowing many people to learn more about reproductive justice, access it and join the different movements for the right to decide about themselves.


After this cloudy, dark and hopeless picture of the state of reproductive justice in my home country, I want to say that my perspective has always been the same; and that is that women, even if we all do not think alike, do not have the same religious beliefs, are not educated under the same family, are not in the same economic and political conditions; we should have the right to decide about our own body, the exact moment in which we want and feel ready and determined to have a family and our decisions should never be biased by religion, politics, family or society.


Women, even with multiple restrictions, severe or not, will continue to do so, in all parts of the world, because they are not always ready to be mothers, to guide or raise children. I have listened closely to many young women of limited resources who have had to have clandestine abortions, putting their own lives at risk, without the appropriate medical assistance or the optimal health conditions to end their pregnancies for the reason they believe is the right one.


On the other hand, it is also important to talk about the mental health of these women who, in addition to putting their lives at risk, have to live with the feeling of guilt, the weight of society and the judgement of religious groups, because thanks to the deep-rooted beliefs in Colombia it is a crime that, in addition to taking you to prison, can lead us to hell itself.


I have decided to live in the United States because of my affinity with its’ political and legal terms about individual freedoms regarding the beliefs and decisions of each person.


It’s hard to believe in the 21st century, that a right that has been inherent to women and to this society for more than fifty years, is today, again, on the table for discussion, it is concerning and archaic. To go back in time and think of ourselves as a nation different from the one we are in, and more like the Taliban that rules in Kabul, where everyone tries to flee, where women must cover their face and hair, and cannot enter meetings or synagogues where men are present.


It is known across the world that the United States is an example in which the greatest social movements have taken shape and have been fought in a significant way for rights and freedoms that today are taken as an example in many other countries on how to create progressive legislation. It is unbelievable and unacceptable that in the country that erects the Statue of Liberty in the middle of the New York Harbor, that they are even thinking of promoting an abusive law that limits the simple right to be a woman, and to decide about my own body and my own life.



Karen Gutiérrez is a Journalist in Colorado.


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