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Vol. 78/No. 1      January 6, 2014

Marches across Spain protest bill that
would curb women’s right to abortion
(front page)
Tens of thousands of women and men took to the streets in 21 cities across Spain Dec. 21 to protest a bill proposed by the ruling Popular Party that would overturn a 2010 law that made it legal for women to have an abortion through the 14th week of pregnancy. Many carried signs saying “Abortion is not a crime,” “The right to choose!” and “It’s my body, I decide.”

“It’s unacceptable that abortion depends only on the will of the woman with no other factor taken into account,” Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón said at a press conference in Madrid announcing the bill. He claimed that the law seeks to “recover a balance” between women’s rights and the rights of the unborn fetus.

Gádor Joya, spokesperson for the anti-woman group Right to Life, had her take on the meaning of balance. She told Spain’s El Mundo the bill “is a step toward our aim of zero abortion.”

“We totally refuse to accept a restriction on the freedom and autonomy of women in regards to sexuality and deciding on maternity,” said a statement signed by 329 women’s rights, medical and political organizations in Spain. “It is our right to decide about our bodies and our lives.”

If approved by Parliament, the bill would ban abortion except in case of rape, “to avoid a grave threat to the life” of the pregnant woman or fetal deformity. Even in those cases, the right to abortion would be severely restricted.

In case of rape, abortion would be permitted only in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy after a seven-day waiting period, and would require the signature of two doctors in addition to the attending physician. Minors would need their parents’ consent. Similar red tape applies in case of risk to the woman’s life and fetal deformity.

Doctors who perform banned abortions would face up to three years in prison and loss of their medical license for up to six years. Even “inducing” a woman to have an abortion or convincing someone else to perform one could be punished with prison time.

Restrictions on the right to choose were relaxed in 2010, when the Socialist Party-led government passed a law allowing abortion in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy, although it imposed a three-day waiting period. After 14 weeks and up to 22 weeks, abortion is allowed only in case of risk to the woman’s life or severe fetal deformities and requires the approval of a third-party doctor.

The 2010 law allows medical personnel “directly involved” — the attending doctor, midwife, anesthesiologist — who object to abortion to refuse to carry out the medical procedure. Under the Popular Party bill “conscientious objection” would be expanded to include all medical personnel.

In 2006, before abortion was decriminalized, there were 101,000 abortions in Spain, in 2011 there were 118,359 and in 2012, 112,390, according to El País.

The Popular Party, a bloc of centrist and rightist forces led by Mariano Rajoy, defeated the Socialist Party by a large margin in the November 2011 election, built on opposition to the SP’s attacks on the working class in response to a collapse of the economy spurred by the worldwide crisis of capitalist production and trade.

The party gained 186 out of 350 seats in Parliament. Promises to restrict abortion were a central part of their platform. The Catholic Church is one of the main backers of the moves to undercut women’s right to choose. A church-backed anti-choice demonstration Nov. 17 drew tens of thousands of opponents of women’s rights.

“The law that is proposed would make it impossible for women with scarce resources to terminate their pregnancy,” Socialist Deputy Elena Valenciano said in an open letter to women Popular Party members in Parliament. Better off women “will be able to travel to any European country to get this procedure. You know it because it’s always been like that.”

Abortion in the first trimester is legal in most of Western Europe except for Malta, Ireland and Andorra, although often with required waiting periods.

The Popular Party faces a sharp decline in public support, as it has deepened attacks on workers’ jobs, wages and working conditions begun under the Socialist Party government. Under pressure from the right, Rajoy’s government is straining to regain backing by stepping up efforts around social questions like opposition to abortion, attacks on Catalonian separatism and moves against education ‘reforms’ passed by the SP. It recently increased penalties for those who participate in unauthorized street protests and authorized private security guards to make arrests.

The anti-choice bill is expected to come to a vote in the summer. Many Popular Party deputies refrained from applauding after the bill was presented in Parliament, but the conservative party leaders denied that the party is divided over the law.
Related articles:
Court ‘religious freedom’ ruling is blow to workers’ rights
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