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Suit will target Colombia abortion ban



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Days after Colombia's highest court rejected a case challenging the country's complete prohibition on abortion, an international women's rights group says it is planning to file another suit on Monday.

"We are committed to this," Monica Roa, a Bogota lawyer who works for Women's Link Worldwide, said in an interview Friday. "The problems continue to exist, women die and we have to find a solution."

In a challenge closely watched by women's rights groups from New York to Buenos Aires, Roa had sought to legalize abortion when a mother's life is in danger, when the fetus is expected to die from abnormalities or when the pregnancy is the result of rape.

The suit, which was rejected Wednesday by the nine-member Constitutional Court on technical and procedural grounds, argued that Colombia's complete ban on abortion violated the country's obligations to international human rights treaties ensuring a woman's right to life and health.

Proponents of rolling back the law, among the most stringent measures in the world, argued that in spite of it, more than 300,000 abortions take place in Colombia each year, with hundreds of women dying from botched procedures.

The court's president, Manuel Jose Cepeda, however, left the door open to another suit.

Roa, whose efforts have generated support from the press and candidates for next year's presidential election, decided to file one.

"If the court needs to see something different, we will show them whatever they want to see," she said.

Legal analysts in Colombia had considered the court open to Roa's arguments in the initial challenge. The 14-year-old panel had the reputation of being independent and had ruled in favor of Colombia's commitments to international treaties in past, unrelated cases. But political analysts said that in recent years, the court had been under tremendous pressure not to rock the boat in a socially and politically conservative country.

"I cannot come to any other conclusion but that the court evaded its responsibilities," said Carlos Gaviria, a former judge on the court who helped advise Roa on the first case. "I know Monica's suit, and it is excellent. There is no rhetoric. It is all arguments referring to international human rights treaties, to Colombian constitutional law."

(C) 2005 International Herald Tribune. via ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved

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