Several hundred people demonstrated in Madrid on Sunday afternoon to protest a government proposal to toughen Spain’s abortion law. Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz Gallardón is proposing to change the law to make abortion illegal in cases where the fetus is deformed (malformación del feto) and to require 16- and 17-year-olds to have parental permission before undergoing an abortion.
Gallardón is a member of Spain’s conservative Popular Party, which was elected in to power overwhelmingly in November. One of the right-leaning party’s campaign pledges was to tighten the abortion law passed in 2010 by the then-Socialist government.
Spain’s 2010 Abortion Law: La Ley de Plazos
Under the 2010 law, la ley de plazos, women were given the legal right to an abortion on demand for up to the 15th week of pregnancy. They also gained the legal right to abort up to the 22nd week of pregnancy when the mother’s health was at risk or the fetus showed serious deformities. In addition, if a fetus was found to have an “extremely severe serious malformation,” an abortion could be carried out at any time with the approval an ethics committee.
The law’s provisions are similar to those approved in most developed European countries.
Before la ley de plazos was passed, women in Spain could have abortions only in cases of rape, of when their mental or physical health was threatened and when the fetus was severely deformed. In 2009, the year before la ley de plazos was passed, 115,000 abortions were carried out in private clinics, with women saying that the pregnancy posed a “psychological risk” to them.
Turning Back the Clock on Women’s Rights 35 Years
To support his proposal, Gallardón has appealed to the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which calls on nations to “adopt all necessary measures to guarantee the rights of disabled people.” In an interview with a conservative publication, La Razon, Gallardón said that “I don’t understand why we should deprive a fetus of life by allowing abortion for the simple reason that it suffers a handicap or a deformity. Such a statement shows clear disregard for the life and health of a pregnant woman seeking an abortion; Gallardón is asserting ideology over an attempt to understand the realities women seeking abortions face.
One of the authors of la ley de plazos, Santiago Barambio, the head of the Spanish association of abortion clinics, Acai, emphasized to AFP that all UN health agencies, the World Health Organisation and the Council of Europe do not restrict abortion. He suggested that Gallardón is acting in concert with “the extreme right and the ultra-Catholics, which are perhaps a minority but are very powerful economically.” Barambio specifically mentioned Opus Dei (Latin for “work of God”), an ultra-conservative Roman Catholic organization founded in 1928 in Spain.
As one woman at Sunday’s protest expressed her opposition to Gallardón’s proposal by writing on her stomach: Fuera curas y jueces de mi cuerpo: “Priests and judges out of my body.”
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