25 Jul, 2014 @ 12:00
4 mins read

Back to the dark ages: Spain and the abortion ban

By Imogen Calderwood

IMAGINE a world where women have no control over their own body, a world where choosing to abort the foetus growing inside your womb is illegal.

Imagine this world where the state bans abortion unless the baby is severely deformed, the mother’s health at serious risk or it is the result of rape.

Now take a look around you. You’re in 21st century Spain. And in one month’s time it could really come to pass that clandestine abortion clinics once more raise their ugly heads, completely unregulated and terrifyingly unhygienic.

Before July is over, Spanish parliament will have voted on the bill banning abortion, with most predictions insisting it will come to pass.

In the meantime, the overwhelming majority of Spain continues to stand in defiance, desperate not to be dragged, kicking and screaming, back into the dark ages, when abortions were handled not by tax-funded healthcare, but by the black market.

According to a recent poll, an overwhelming 81% of Spaniards are against the reforms.

The governments of Andalucia, the Basque Country and Catalunya have all already voiced their intentions to oppose the bill – initially proposed by Mariano Rajoy’s ruling PP party in December last year.

Asturias and the Canary Islands have followed suit, branding the proposals ‘regressive’ and ‘an incomprehensible step backwards’.

Incredibly, more than 100,000 of the 118,000 abortions carried out in 2012 would be illegal under the new legislation, according to the Spanish Association of Accredited Abortion Clinics.

The united belief is that the law would not stop abortions taking place, it would merely make them unregulated and unsafe, seriously endangering women’s health.

Just days after the bill was proposed, thousands of activists flocked to Madrid to burn an effigy of Minister of Justice Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon – the mastermind behind the reforms – and demand his resignation.

The streets of Malaga, Bilbao and Barcelona were also teeming with outrage, as protesters demanded the rights to their own bodies.

Womens rights group Femen warned on Twitter: “If they take away our right to decide, we’ll have to abort morality, the Church and everything that limits our freedom.”

They see the bill as returning adult women to the status of minors – unable to make a decision about their own bodies without third party intervention.

“This law doesn’t respect the minimum rights that other laws in Europe do,” said one woman, at a protest outside the Spanish embassy in Paris, labelled The March of the Women.

In the weeks after the burning of Ruiz-Gallardon’s effigy, the flames of discontent spread like wildfire throughout Europe.

As more and more activists gathered in Madrid, Europe-wide solidarity protests took off in Rome, Lisbon, Paris and London.

Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon
Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon

Banners were simple, blunt and serious. ‘We give birth, we decide’, read one, while another went, ‘Abortion has no place in criminal law’.

One headline-catching protest managed to perfectly demonstrate the notion that the PP are stealing women’s rights to their own bodies.

Hundreds marched straight-faced into regional government offices, demanding that their bodies be entered in commercial registries, normally reserved for cars and planes.

When baffled bureaucrats asked why, the women explained they wanted official certification that their bodies belonged to them.

A return to ‘medieval’ restrictions

Astonishingly, Spain has already shed itself of these ‘medieval’ restrictions once before, following the death of dictator Franco in the 1970s..

A return would equate to a massive step backwards for gender equality and women’s rights.

Spain’s historically strict abortion rules were not finally relaxed until as recently as 2010. The PSOE government changed the law to comply with fundamental rights concerning sexual and reproductive health, established by the World Health Organisation.

The reforms gave women the right to decide whether to terminate their pregnancies during the first 14 weeks, with no third party intervention.

The PP – strongly influenced by the Roman Catholic church – fought this progression from the very start, and was the only party to oppose it.

Despite the successful reform to bring the country in line with 90% of Europe, this was clearly an issue that the PP refused to let lie.

At his very first appearance in parliament in January 2012, just days after taking office, Ruiz-Gallardon announced his intention to reverse the popular 2010 law.

However, times have changed and even many PP voters are refusing to back the current campaign, with polls suggesting as many as 70-80% of the party’s supporters are opposed to it.

“These changes have more to do with politics and ideology than social realities today,” said Francisca Garcia of the Association of Accredited Clinics for the Interruption of Pregnancy – the umbrella group that represents 98% of the country’s abortion clinics.

“From all the data we’ve seen, the number of abortions in Spain is actually on the decline. The PP is simply trying to satisfy the right-wing factions of its party.”more abortion protest

‘Abortion tourism’

There is an alternative to forced labour or backstreet methods, available only to those with deep pockets – this is ‘abortion tourism’.

Those with the funds will travel abroad to the many liberal-thinking neighbouring countries. More than 32% of women who have had an abortion in the past four months say they would seek the same procedure in another country, according to the Clinics Association for Termination of Pregnancy.

This is a common occurrence in countries with these restrictions already in place.

In Ireland – one of the few countries with restrictions tighter than those proposed for Spain – it is estimated that more than 6,000 women travel to England to have abortions every year.

But despite the unmistakable statistics – and overwhelming wave of fury – Ruiz-Gallardon is still standing his ground refusing to bow to pressure.

“You have my word that neither insult nor cry shall make this minister rescind his commitment to fulfilling the policy of regulating the rights of women and of pregnancy,” he insisted with great pomposity.

In less than a month, we’ll know if he achieved it.

Imogen Calderwood

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  1. “My Belly is Mine” campaigns in London to raise awareness of the bill in the UK and to support Spanish women in their fight against it. Our blog is updated regularly with the latest developments on the bill. You can find us on wordpress, Facebook and twitter.

  2. Is Imogen sometimes a little grateful that her own parents were medieval,draconian and sexist enough not to have had her killed in the womb ?

    Death on a hospital ward is not defined as cessation of heart activity,but as cessation of brain activity.
    Most unborn babies confined to the hospital incinerator post “termination” have developed both heart waves and brain waves separate from the mother. It’s not rocket science to see them as separate beings…….More convenient very often, of course, to have them killed,rather like the Dignitas “clinic” in Geneva for our elderly parents.
    Do you really want to live in a culture of death ?

  3. No one wants to live in a culture of death. That’s why we should spend less on the oppression system (all the different types of police, secret and traffic police included, army, secret services) and more on education. And for the few unfortunate cases that WILL without doubt still happen, leave women the choice. Otherwise, they’ll do it in unhygienic unregulated places.
    Ruiz Gallardon knows abortions will continue to take place, he’s not banning the abortions, he’s banning women’s right to medical assistance.

  4. AW, take your arrogant I am right you are wrong religious brainwashing and shove it somewhere the sun does’nt shine.

    This planet has only one real problem – too many bipeds The only reason the priests want more children to be born is more power and more money coming in – never forget the only reason that the Roman mafia made their priests live celibate lives is so that any property they owned went into the mafias coffers.

  5. “for the few unfortunate cases that WILL without doubt still happen, leave them the choice. Otherwise, they’ll do it in unhygienic unregulated places.” –

    You’re arguing for a right to harm a body other than your own because otherwise it will be done without “medical assistance?” Why not argue a parental right to ‘female circumcision?’ The same reasoning would apply.

  6. PS: Hey Stuart, way to criticize an “arrogant I am right you are wrong” message by creating your own “arrogant I am right you are wrong” message. [LOL- irony much?]

    BTW, there are plenty of atheists who believe that abortion is morally equivalent to infanticide. I am one. After all, if you ignore the developing potential of a human infant and you only acknowledge the attributes it presently possesses, then its claim to personhood is weaker than that of a pig. (Pigs are pretty clever and far more self-aware than human babies under one year of age.)

    Why is infanticide profoundly immoral, but eating bacon isn’t? If the fact that an infant is currently undergoing the process of developing the attributes which define personhood gives an infant (and not a pig) the right not to be killed, then fetuses have that right too. A fetus is engaged in the very same process (albeit not as far along), so it should have the same right not to be killed.

    PPS: Even if the earth truly were endangered by overpopulation rather than by energy policy (which it isn’t), then that’s still not a justification for taking innocent human lives. If you really feel that strongly about it, though, maybe it’s a reason to reevaluate the value of your own life. As I’m not religious, I have no objections to euthanasia.

  7. “Those who defend the right to abortion are not in favour of abortion: just that, at times, it’s the best of a bad choice.”

    I find that to be a distinction without a difference. If one says that X is the best choice from among a selection of bad choices, then that’s saying it’s right to do X. If one believes it’s right to do X, then by definition one is in favor of X.

    I think that what defenders of abortion really mean by saying that they’re “not in favor” of it, is that while they are in favor of it, they wish they had less disturbing options that would achieve the same end. Truman probably would have preferred to avoid using atomic bombs if he thought he had a preferable option, but he certainly defended their use as opposed to Operation Downfall. Likewise, abortion proponents may regret that they don’t see a less distasteful option, but they absolutely defend abortion when the other option is that women wouldn’t have the option to terminate a pregnancy that was unwanted.

    In every relevant sense, that is being in favor of abortion.

  8. Only those with a working womb have a right to make decisions on this subject. All others should butt out. While a foetus is connected to the mother by the umbilical cord, being fed nutrients and oxygen from her blood, then that foetus is part of her body to do as she will with. It is up to society to provide the swift compassionate means for her to make a decision she is comfortable with. The last thing society should be doing is torturing her with guilt-trips and obstacles designed to frustrate a genuine desire to end a pregnancy.

  9. This planet only has one real problem – too many bipeds. You know what happens to species that over breed – they destroy their environment and food sources and die out.

    All religious and pompous intellectual arguments cannot/will not address this reality. Will these self same arrogant ones look after the unwanted children, no that’s for other people – complete hypocrites.

  10. Anthony Weaver,
    to deny that humans are breeding themselves out of existence shows that you are driven by something other than reality – religious/political dogma?

    We could start to address the problem by getting rid of all the reality deniers.

    We do live in a ‘culture of death’ created and kept going by religious/political freaks.

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