Spanish Women Will Once Again Have to Give Justifications to Receive Permission for Abortions

Spanish Women Will Once Again Have to Give Justifications to Receive Permission for Abortions
The Minister says this is the “most progressive reform” he has made in his life.
El País: Las mujeres tendrán que volver a dar una justificación para abortar
María R. Sahuquillo reporting from Madrid February 1, 2012

Women will again have to give explanations to cut off their pregnancies in Spain. The Minister of Justice, Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón, confirmed yesterday that he will reform the current time period laws – which permit people to abort freely until the 14th week of gestation – to return to a case system similar to the 1985 regulation, in which women will have to cite reasons for their decisions. Gallardón still has not clarified what the conditions will be for abortions to be permitted, nor what will be the time limits involved. Until July 2010, abortion was a crime. Women could only resort to it in cases of rape (until the 12th week of gestation), deformity of the fetus (until the 22nd week), and risk to the physical and psychological health of the mother (no time limit).

The PSOE (Socialist Party) and women’s organizations strongly criticized the government’s decision yesterday, which they see as a step backward and loss of rights. They recalled, as well, that the previous case-by-case system provoked the large majority of women (about 90%) to allege risk to their psychological health in order to have recourse to an abortion, a loophole which still left them and their doctors vulnerable.

The government is counting on the support of UPN, its ally in Navarra, to pass the law. Organizations opposed to the right to abortion, like Hazte Oír (Make Yourself Hear) and Derecho a Vivir (Right to Life) – welcome the change, although they aspire for total prohibition.

“Reforming the abortion law is the most progressive thing I’ve done in my life,” Gallardón said yesterday in an interview with TVE. The Minister of Justice reiterated that the current law “leaves the rights of the unborn unprotected” and that he took into account the Constitutional Tribunal’s ruling in 1985, which described nasciturus (the Spanish legal term for the consideration of a fetus as a human being from the moment of conception) is a judicially protected right but whose defense could be in conflict with the rights of the mother, the doctrine upon which the case system sustained itself.

“When some rights are in collision with others in certain cases, abortion is not criminally punishable,” the Ministry affirmed. The legislators should now, he explained, decide what these cases are. Exception in the case of rape would have to be recuperated because it disappeared after the previous law was passed.

For Carmen Montón, the government’s decision is “an outrage”. The PSOE’s Spokeswoman for Equality believes that returning to the case system would “eliminate the right of women to decide their maternity.” Montón, who participated in the creation of the law in force, believes that terminating the free abortion period does away with the spirit of the law and distances Spain from the European milieu.

Lucía Mazarrasa, an expert from the National Health School and member of the Feminist Political Forum, says “the woman’s decision will be returned to the hands of professionals”. Montón and Mazarras see Gallardón’s words as a wink to the more conservative sectors of his party, but they found something lacking in his argument: references to family planning and contraception. Gynecologist Isabel Serrano, President of the Spanish Federation of Family Planning, also stressed this and asks what the government’s policies are to lower the abortion rate, which in various years has topped 100,000. “The first measure regarding sexual and reproductive health should have been for that, and not for prevention or the fomenting of sexual education for ideological reasons. This is very worrying.”

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