Abortion rights activists in the US can learn from recent progress on abortion access in Latin America

Abortion rights activists in Bogota, Colombia, celebrate the High Court's February decision to decriminalize abortion.

Bogota, Colombia (CNN)The prospect of the United States overturning decades of abortion rights, which materialized this week in a leaked draft opinion by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, triggered shock waves in many countries in Latin America, where many feminist organizations have often looked at the US as a model of greater reproductive rights and freedoms.

However, that model has flipped on its head in recent years. Just as several US states have put in place further barriers to abortion access through various restrictions, some countries in Latin America have moved in the other direction, with a growing number of countries liberalizing such laws.
Laura Gil, a gynecologist and abortion rights activist in Bogota, Colombia has experienced this turnaround firsthand. "I remember we would meet with health professionals in the US, and for years they would always look at us with admiration for our struggle to expand reproductive rights. Now it's the opposite," she told CNN.
    The doctor was in Florida when news of the leak broke on Monday. Her US colleagues were disparaged, she said. "They come from an environment where abortion is legal, while for us, abortion used to be banned and now it's not," she said.
      Gil was at the forefront of a yearslong popular campaign to legalize abortion in Colombia, a movement that achieved its goal in February when the Constitutional Court ruled in favor of legalizing abortion up until 24 weeks of a pregnancy.
      Colombia's decision followed similar recent measures in Mexico and Argentina, where abortion rights advocates demonstrating collectively as the "green wave" -- the color of choice for the movement -- celebrated their victories.
      Argentina's Senate voted to legalize abortion up to 14 weeks in December 2020, making the country the largest nation in Latin America at the time to legalize the practice.
        In September, Mexico's Supreme Court unanimously ruled that penalizing abortion is unconstitutional, a decision expected to set precedent for the legal status of abortion nationwide, although individual states have moved at different paces on its implementation.
        And just last month, after years of court battles, Ecuador took a first step to liberalize its laws by legalizing abortion for pregnancies that occurred as a result of rape up to 12 weeks.
        A woman holds up a banner that reads "My body, I decide" in Saltillo, Mexico, after the country's Supreme Court ruled that penalizing abortion is unconsitutional in September.

        Valuable lessons

        Now that it appears the tables could be turning, some Latin American activists say they can offer valuable lessons to their US counterparts to defend the right to abortion.
        Giselle Carino, an Argentinian political scientist who took part in the campaign for legal abortion in her country, now serves as the New York-based CEO of Fos Feminista, a feminist alliance of more than 170 organizations around the world.
        "I look at Argentina with a lot of pride, of course, because that was a truly democratic effort," Carino told CNN.
        "It took 20 years for us, and we had many defeats. When we succeeded, it was because mobilization was huge: People would talk abortion at the dinner tables, in bars, cafes -- and at the same time we managed to put women in positions of power. We elected feminist representatives who would try to expand our struggle," she said.
        "Those were the two lessons: To make abortion a mainstream topic and to advance through political victories, bit by bit," she added.
        Abortion rights activists celebrate in Buenos Aires after Argentina's Senate approved a bill to legalize abortion up to 14 weeks in December 2020.