I know what it takes to move a country. It’s hard, and you have to have infinite stamina and belief and passionate commitment. And these two women have it in spades.
To finally make abortion legal in Colombia despite the influence of the country’s religious right, Ana Cristina González Vélez and Cristina Villarreal Velásquez had to think strategically from the get-go. They went straight to the place that was the obstacle, the Constitutional Court. They also knew the importance of having a broad-based social movement—galvanizing women across the country to wear green handkerchiefs (which have become symbolic across the region of support for abortion access) and energetically claim their rights.
It is remarkable what Ana Cristina and Cristina did. It gives us hope for the future of access in the U.S., despite what is happening with Roe v. Wade. It empowers women in Poland—where abortion laws are among the strictest in Europe—to say, “OK, our countries are different, but if they can do it, we can pick ourselves up and have another try.” That sense of international solidarity is crucial because there are so many countries where it is difficult for women to even stand up and fight.
I would very much like to meet these women, to shake their hands and give them a hug. They are brilliant.
Smyth is an Irish activist and convener of Together for Yes, a coalition of civil-society groups that successfully campaigned to repeal Ireland’s strict ban on abortion
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