|Minister for Justice|
Alberto Ruiz Gallardón
Opposition says proposals will 'take us back 35 years'
MADRID Spain's Ley del Aborto is presently in line with most of the rest of Europe, with one important difference: under age girls do not need their parents' consent or knowledge to seek termination of pregnancy. In most of the EU (e.g. Germany, Austria, Netherlands, Greece, etc.), abortion is a right during the first weeks of gestation (between 12 and 14 weeks), when termination can take place without nay need for justification. In a swing to the Right over the last decade, conservative governments in the EU have left their laws as they were. In Spain, however, the government of Mariano Rajoy plans to change things radically, basing itself on the theory of defending maternity and the p`rotection of the unborn. Minister for Justice Alberto Ruiz Gallardón said last week that there is a "structural violence of gender" that impels womento abort. If the minister gets his way, Spain will go back to the Catholic status of Ireland, one of Europe's most restrictive countries that is now opening up, at least regarding abortion.>>>PLEASE BE AWARE THAT ITEMS SUCH AS THIS MAY BE SUBJECT TO SUBSCRIPTION IN THE FUTURE. But you can help us stay free by making a donation through our PayPal facility on the sidebar.
To return to a legal concept that made abortion a crime - except in cases of rape, fetal malformation or health risk to the mother - from 1985 to 2010, would return Spain to an era when abortion was not see as a right and a woman could do so only under medical supervision. Esperanza Aguirre (PP), President of the Community of Madrid, put it this way recently: "Abortion is not a right, it is a failure."
Other countries have eluded the kind of change Spain appears to be heading towards. Conservative (small c) governments in Portugal and Italy, for instance. Only the far Right government of Viktor Orban in Hungary changed its Constitution to say that life must be defended 'from conception'.
"Other states, although they have yet to start on the same road as Spain, have attempted to somehow limit voluntary termination of pregnancy," says Irene Donadio, an expert on the subject who works with the International Planned Parenthood Federation's European Network (IPPF). Even the Council of Europe is against any changes, having spent years advocating that abortion should be considered a right in all the EU states.
Research by the World Health Organization (WHO) concludes that the number of terminations is higher in those countries where abortion is restricted.
"Laws that limit and criminalise abortion do not stop those who need it from getting one," says Dr. Jenny Tonge, British MP. "They will go ahead, but dangerously and clandestinely," adds the MP who, before taking her seat, worked in family planning. Should the law change in Spain, Tonge also sees a return to the bad old days, when Spanish women with the resources, travelled to the UK for an abortion.
As it is, some 6,000 women flock across the Irish Channel to seek a termination in Britain that will cost between €800 and €1,500, according to an as yet unpublished report by the IPPF that looks into the subject within the EU.
Should Gallardón's proposal succeed -and there is no reason to suppose otherwise, with the government's large majority in the Chambers- Spain may well be taking a step back in time. The minister believes the idea is constitutional, something he declared after opposition spokespeople announced they would be seeking legal advice and probably put the matter before the Supreme Court. "It works in the larger Western nations," says Gallardón, possibly referring to the UK and Finland, for example, where an abortion must be justified according to legal limits, thus removing the concept of 'freedom of decision' from the pregnant woman.