This article analyses two instances of abortion law reform in Latin America. In 2006, after a decades-long impasse, the highly controversial issue of abortion came to dominate the political agenda when Colombia liberalized its abortion law and Nicaragua adopted a total ban on abortion. The article analyses the central actors in the reform processes, their strategies and the opportunity contexts. Drawing on Htun's (2003) framework, it examines why these processes concluded with opposing legislative outcomes. The authors argue for the need to understand the state as a non-unitary site of politics and policy, and for judicial processes to be seen as a key variable in facilitating gender policy reforms in Latin America. In addition, they argue that ‘windows of opportunity’ such as the timing of elections can be critically important in legislative change processes.