17 Jan, 2023 @ 17:42
2 mins read

Spain’s central government takes action after region promises anti-abortion measures


A BIZARRE row over abortion measures has sparked a crisis in the Castilla y Leon regional government, and has also dragged in the central administration in Madrid. 

It all started last Thursday, when the far-right Vox party – the junior partner in the government – announced a new protocol for pregnant women in the northern region who want to terminate a pregnancy. 

According to the announcement made by the deputy premier, Juan García-Gallardo of Vox, from Monday it was to be obligatory for women to be offered the chance to listen to the foetal heartbeat and see a 4D ultrasound scan before proceeding with a termination.

But the plans have caused a rift between Gallardo and the senior group in the coalition, the conservative Popular Party (PP).

The regional premier, Alfonso Fernandez Mañueco, made a public statement on Monday in which he denied that there would be any changes to abortion protocols, and that nothing would go into action that could be interpreted as ‘coercion’ to stop a woman from terminating her pregnancy.

Under Spain’s decentralised system, each region is in charge of its own healthcare system. However, the law covering abortion rights is a national one

To make the situation even more odd, no documents exist about the protocol, despite Vox’s insistence that it would go into force on Monday. 

This has not stopped the central government from taking action. On Tuesday, the administration of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez of the Socialist Party (PSOE) took the first step to take the matter to the Constitutional Court. 

Pedro Sanchez says court veto over judges appointments is 'unprecedented' in Spain's democratic history
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez. Cordon Press image

The central government, a coalition of the PSOE and junior partner Unidas Podemos, has made women’s rights one of its key policy points and is determined to stop what it perceives as any reversals.

Today the Cabinet approved an agreement that calls on the regional authorities to refrain from adopting ‘any actions that violate or undermine’ the law covering terminations. 

The region now has a month to respond, and if it doesn’t a ‘conflict of powers’ case will be taken to the Constitutional Court. When this happens, the measure in question is automatically suspended for six months.

But for now the ‘measure in question’ does not exist on paper. In fact, regional premier Mañueco wrote a letter to Sánchez making this clear, accusing the prime minister of using the issue for ‘propaganda’.

Coalition agreement

Meanwhile, the general secretary of Vox, Ignacio Garriga, on Tuesday threatened that there will be a revision of the coalition agreement between the PP and Vox in the region should the conservative party not keep its promise to approve a new abortion protocol. 

The national leader of the PP, Alberto Nuñez Feijoo, added his voice to that of Mañueco, insisting that the ‘Castilla y Leon government is not going to modify its protocol for dealing with pregnant women’. 

Whatever the outcome of the row between the right-wing parties, the incident is giving the PSOE a reason to attack the regional government, which is the only one in Spain currently run by a coalition of the right and the far right. 

According to polling ahead of next year’s general election, there is a strong chance that a PP-Vox coalition could be one of the options on the table should the results be inconclusive.

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Simon Hunter

Simon Hunter has been living in Madrid since the year 2000 and has worked as a journalist and translator practically since he arrived. For 16 years he was at the English Edition of Spanish daily EL PAÍS, editing the site from 2014 to 2022, and is currently one of the Spain reporters at The Times. He is also a voice actor, and can be heard telling passengers to "mind the gap" on Spain's AVLO high-speed trains.

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