Father’s bid to halt 8th month abortion makes headlines in Colombia

Bogotá, Colombia, Feb 23, 2020 / 10:00 am (CNA).- A late term abortion case has made national headlines in Colombia after a father lost a court appeal to save the life of his unborn son.

Juan Pablo Medina became a national figure in Colombia in the first week of February, after he went public with his efforts to prevent his girlfriend from procuring the abortion of their eight-month-old unborn child.

The 25-year-old law student had dated his girlfriend, Angie Tatiana Palta, 22, for 14 months when they mutually agreed to have a baby together.

Medina says he supported Palta throughout the pregnancy, which was healthy. A Dec. 6 ultrasound with Medina present showed the baby, close to eight months old, doing fine and with no deformities.

But, he says, the situation changed when Palta’s mother and family found out about the pregnancy on Dec. 27. Medina claims the family pressured Palta to have an abortion. He was then told that Palta was in the hospital, supposedly in critical condition, in great mental distress, and that the baby had deformities – grounds for abortion in Colombia. 

In a Jan. 31 interview with Semana.com, Medina said “that seemed strange to me because the last ultrasound on Dec. 6 showed the baby was in optimal condition, which makes you wonder.” 

When he visited Palta in the hospital, he was told that the baby was fine and that Palta was requesting an abortion on the legal grounds of danger to her mental health. But, he said, the hospital’s psychological evaluation indicated she was not suffering psychological trauma but was confused.  

After Palta was discharged from the hospital, Medina lost all contact with her for eight days, prompting him to take legal action to protect his unborn child. Medina filed a criminal complaint alleging attempted homicide, and made an emergency appeal for guardianship of the child. He bought a crib and other necessities, anticipating the need to care for the baby as a single father.

On Jan. 31, Medina posted on Twitter that he was trying to save his son, whom he had named Juan Sebastián, or JuanSe for short. The hashtag #SalvemosaJuanSe (Let’s save JuanSe) was soon trending among Colombians on Twitter. 

Medina was interviewed by Semana.com. on the same day, and the story became headline national news.

In the interview, Medina said Palta was unwilling to talk and that he had lost all contact with her. Through contact with relatives, Medina said he learned that Palta intended to abort because she was “not ready to welcome the child, wants to finish her career and doesn’t have the financial means.”

Meanwhile, Palta went to a ProFamilia abortion clinic, which claimed that she was “in psychological distress and was having suicidal thoughts and so on,” Medina said.

He told Blu Radio Feb. 11 that he only found out she had procured the abortion on Feb. 7, when he reviewed the case file for the criminal complaint he had filed. 

As a law student who suspended his studies to deal with the situation, Medina had lost his emergency appeal for guardianship. The judge in the case requested the psychological examination from Palta’s healthcare provider which had earlier determined she was not experiencing psychological trauma but was confused. Instead, ProFamila sent the judge a psychological evaluation conducted by a gynecologist, not by a psychologist or a psychiatrist, who verified that an abortion could be done on the grounds of the mental health of the mother. 

The judge ruled that that evaluation was insufficient and ordered a new one. However, ProFamilia, an affiliate of International Federation of Planned Parenthood, ignored the order and went ahead with the abortion, claiming it was a “fundamental right” and that, according to National Health Services guidelines, it should normally be done within five days.

In a Feb. 11 statement, the Colombian bishops’ conference said that “in addition to the pain of knowing that Juan Sebastián was already past seven months gestation and that he was in perfect health, we have been perplexed by how the institutions of this country did not guarantee the rights of the father who persistently and tenaciously fought for the life of his son through the applicable channels.”

“We join the suffering of Juan Sebastián’s family, especially that of his parents, and the pain that so many brothers feel for this tragic event.”

The bishops also called abortion “an injustice that cries out to heaven.”

Prayer vigils and rallies were held outside ProFamilia clinics Feb. 11 in Bogotá, Cartagena, Medellín, and other cities.

Jesús Magaña, president of the United for Life platform, told ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language news partner, that “we’re in a very serious situation promoted and supported by seven judges on the Constitutional Court.” 

Magaña said that “it’s impossible for this to continue happening.” 

“We call on the Congress of the Republic of Colombia to take action on the matter and we call on the Constitutional Court to stop its judicial activism and once again respect the Constitution.”

Medina want to know what happened to his son’s body and wants to recover it for a Christian burial.

Columbia’s Constitutional Court legalized abortion in 2006 in cases of rape, fetal deformities and when a doctor determines there is a risk to the life or health of the mother. In a 2018 ruling, the court affirmed its 2006 decision, and declared abortion to be a “human right,” and asked the government to issue further regulations defining the legal circumstances for abortions to be performed. The Ministry of Health is currently working on developing those regulations.

Natalia Bernal Cano, a doctor of constitutional law, filed two lawsuits last year seeking to recognize the unborn as having human rights and to completely ban abortion on the grounds that it “does serious harm to the babies and the pregnant mothers” involved.

A version of this story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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