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Abortion access and Colombia's legacy of civil war: between reproductive violence and reproductive governance

Journal issue/article

Written by Megan Daigle

In 2022, Colombia decriminalised abortion, making it ostensibly a site of progressive abortion politics. Within hours, however, the ruling was met with intense, high-level backlash that positioned abortion as a threat to the Colombian family and gestured to gendered conflict harms past and present. Colombia's legal framework on abortion has emerged largely due to campaigning that unfolded during periods of intense political violence and insecurity, in a setting where conflict and (post-)conflict exist on a continuum. Combined, this points to the significance of (post-)conflict politics to understanding abortion politics, and vice versa, in the Colombian space. Here, we use interview data gathered in 2018 to argue that the two should be understood in tandem—and, indeed, that one cannot be properly understood without the other, shaped as they both are by a militant conservative nationalism inflected by religion, machismo and natalism, and by the material legacies of conflict. Decriminalization should therefore be understood as part of resurgent conservative reproductive governance, and abortion politics itself as an agonistic space of contestation rather than straightforwardly progressive. Beyond Colombia, it is also indicative of the rich insights on gender justice in conflict spaces that can be drawn from analysing abortion politics.