Photo: Sonny Abesamis

What should not be told: Tensions between the right to privacy and the access to information in cases of the voluntary termination of pregnancy

This document attempts to illustrate and analyze some of the tensions that exist between the right to privacy and other relevant constitutional rights and duties, such as the right to information and the duty to report in the context of the partial decriminalization of abortion in Colombia.

 

The right to privacy of women who choose to end their pregnancy within the three decriminalized circumstances in Colombia conflicts with rights to information and the duty to report. How can we reconcile these?

The right to privacy of women who voluntarily choose to end their pregnancy is constantly under threat. One example are those cases where doctors or judges, sometimes without knowing that they are committing an offence, reveal personal data or even report the women. In 2016 there were close to 1,604 open criminal cases against women who had undergone abortions (Caracol Radio, 2016), and according to the ex- attorney general of the country, Eduardo Montealegre, the majority of these cases were reported to the Prosecutor’s Office by the very doctors and health professionals that had cared for the women.

This lack of a guarantee of privacy for women who decide to have abortions within the decriminalized case framework, along with other cultural and legal obstacles, causes many women to resort to clandestine institutions for abortions, rather than using the health system. The Guttmacher Institute indicated that of the 400,400 abortions carried out in 2008 in Colombia, only 322 were done within the national healthcare system.

This document attempts to illustrate and analyze some of the tensions that exist between the right to privacy and other relevant constitutional rights and duties, such as the right to information and the duty to report in the context of the partial decriminalization of abortion in Colombia.

These tensions are important, as the strategies adopted to resolve them can either disproportionately limit the realization of related rights, or, conversely, can contribute to their integral fulfillment and protection. This document seeks, then, to provide a two-fold constitutional contribution: advancing the discussion of effective harmonization formulas can, on the one hand, help to establish an appropriate doctrine for these rights, and on the other, work to effectively guarantee them.


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