Colombia (Grupo Médico por el Derecho a Decidir)

Colombia: Reproductive Health and Abortion

  • Legality:
    • Since 2006, abortion has been legal under three circumstances (Constitutional Court. Sentence C-355): in cases of rape or incest, when the woman’s life or physical or mental health is at risk, or when the pregnancy has a fatal fetal abnormality.
  • Contraception:
    • 80% of women in union practiced contraception, 73% used a modern method, and 6% used a less effective traditional method (2010). Yet in 2008, 67% of all pregnancies in were unintended, an increase from 52% in 1989.
  • Complications:
    • While the manual vacuum aspiration (MVA) is recommended by the World Health Organization for first trimester abortions and costs an estimated USD 45, eight in 10 abortions are performed via dilation and curettage (D&C), which is more invasive, more time consuming, and more costly at approximately USD 200.
    • 50% of all abortions are performed via misoprostol, which is widely available and safe when used correctly. Yet in Colombia, due to a lack of information on its use, it has a high rate of complications (32%) primarily heavy bleeding and incomplete abortion.
    • Poor women have less access to regulated abortion services and thus resort to misopristol from the black market, pharmacies, and doctors, and/or other methods to induce an abortion.
    • 33% of all women and 53% of poor rural women who have a clandestine abortion experience complications that require medical attention
    • 1 in 5 women who develop complications do not receive the treatment they need
    • Nearly two thirds of health facilities that could provide post-abortion care do not, suggesting that there is a need to expand the number of facilities offering such care, particularly in rural areas.
  • Sources:
    • Prada E et al., Unintended Pregnancy and Induced Abortion in Colombia: Causes and Consequences, New York: Guttmacher Institute, 2011.

GDC/Colombia: Recent Accomplishments

  • Produced resources and led presentations to provide tools for reproductive health advocacy:
    • Created a publication to provide medical evidence to political discourse, which was published by the Health and Human Rights Journal No. 19.1: Legal Knowledge as a Tool for Social Change: La Mesa por La Vida y la Salud de las Mujeres as an expert on Colombian Abortion Law.
    • Presented twice regarding Zika at the CLACAI meetings:
      • The first presentation focused on Zika and government responsibility: “The right to health and the Zika. Obligations of health systems: comprehensive access to sexual and reproductive health.”
      • The second presentation highlighted the two main issues of state responsibility and lessons learnt: “Updating the evidence and strengthening the responses to the Zika virus epidemic, through the incorporation of comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care.”
    • Shared reproductive health expertise at the National Abortion Federation Conference in Canada and the Latin American and Caribbean Feminist Meeting (Encuentro Feminista Latinamericano y del Caribe) in Uruguay.
    • Began developing a workshop to train media experts and journalists to help more accurately and appropriately report on abortion in the media, including compiling images that have been used by journalists that reinforce negative stereotypes (e.g., emphasizing motherhood when it is an unwanted pregnancy, dramatizing the fetus features or size, etc.) and images that are medically accurate and respect women’s right to choose.
    • Provided a reproductive health advocacy workshop to doctors to 1) increase the number of doctors with the skills and confidence to advocacy for more comprehensive reproductive health policies, 2) represent GDC/Colombia in the media and advocacy initiatives, and 3) influence fellow medical providers, their patients, and the general public.
  • Led initiatives to combat conscientious objection (CO) to abortion:
    • Completed study that assessed the prevalence of CO among OB/GYN providers, and created and distributed scientific evidence to advocate for policies and guidelines to limit CO and increase access to safe and legal healthcare.
      • Presented CO research results to the Colombia National Congress on Public Health, thus advocating for abortion access and attempting to influence policy with a national health audience.
      • Completed data analysis, finalized a report, and will distribute findings via publications. The Spanish journal Revista Bioética y Derecho accepted one article for publication (Conscientious Objection, Bioethics, and Human Rights: A perspective from Colombia) and another article is being drafted (tentative title: Knowledge and opinions of abortion regulation among Colombian gynecologists 10 years after the C-355/2010 decision).
  • Engaged in political advocacy initiatives:
    • Served as the go-to expert for reproductive health advocacy in Colombia.
    • Contributed medical expertise to share the impact of the Global Gag Rule.
    • Networked in order to be involved in the creation of MoH guidelines for second and third trimester abortion provision.
    • Successfully campaigned against a lawsuit filed by a conservative group to restrict gestational for abortion
      • Campaigned with La Mesa and other key stakeholders against a lawsuit filed by a conservative group to restrict gestational for abortion.
      • Released a document (created in collaboration with La Mesa and with the support of the Minister of Health) that cited medical evidence to advocate for no limits on gestational age.
      • Fortunately, the constitutional court decided to keep the current law and continued to not limit gestational age for abortion.
    • Shared medical expert testimony and guidelines from the General Attorney Office to condemn the illegal prosecution of a woman who had an abortion.
    • Participated in the campaign to liberalize the abortion law in Argentina:

GDC/Colombia: Leadership

Dr. Ana Cristina González Vélez is the founder of and lead doctor for GDC/Colombia; she also sits on GDC’s Board of Managers.

Oriéntame serves as GDC/Colombia’s fiscal sponsor.


GDC/Colombia: Lead Doctor Profiles

Ana Cristina Gonzalez Velez PhotoAna Cristina González Vélez, MD, MS, PhD Candidate

Lead Doctor, GDC/Colombia and member of the Board of Managers
An expert in sexual and reproductive health and rights, health care reform, and advocacy, Dr. González Vélez has worked as a consultant and conducted research with the support of the WHO, the Pan American Health Organization, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the United Nations Population Fund, the International Planned Parenthood Federation, and the Ford Foundation, among others. She served on various national boards, including the National Institutes of Health, Colciencias, and INVIMA, as well as international boards, such as the Association for Women’s Rights, Advisory Panel for the Americas, and Senior Technical Advisory Group of the World Health Organization (WHO). She has been actively involved in the women’s movement at both the local and international levels, has been a featured expert at the United Nations conferences, and her work has been published in international journals and books on sexual and reproductive health. Dr. González Vélez worked as a physician and an advisor at PROFAMILIA in Bogotá and as the national director of Public Health in Colombia.



GDc colombiacropped

Advocating for access to safe reproductive health care.