Justice Minister Gallardón Denounces “Structural Violence” That Obliges Women to Abort

Justice Minister Gallardón Denounces “Structural Violence” That Obliges Women to Abort
Listen to the exchange
El País: Gallardón denuncia una “violencia estructural” que obliga a abortar
Political Correspondent Anabel Díez reporting from Madrid March 7, 2012

It wasn’t an improvisation; it was an explicit declaration about why women abort. Minister of Justice Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón has provoked an authentic inferno inside and outside Parliament after stating that women are “in many occasions” submitted to “structural gender violence for the mere act of getting pregnant.” This is what he said to Socialist Deputy Ángeles Álvarez, who was worried about the direction of the changes the Minister wants to make to the prevailing abortion law. “The legislator [Álvarez] should not be indifferent to the situations of many women who see their rights to be mothers raped by the pressure exercised by certain structures around them.” The murmurs from the left’s benches rose in intensity while the PP delegation applauded him forcefully. The parliamentary left’s fears that the government wants to dump Spain’s current abortion law were confirmed. The draft of the new law will come in the fall.

The debate that Gallardón provoked in the full Congress meeting continued in the corridors afterward and very soon spread to women’s associations, syndicates, and social networks. The Minister’s entire discourse, read from a notebook, was directed toward signaling that the cause of abortions “in many cases” is a lack of attention, help, and information for women. With an adequate support network, they would not renounce maternity. This conception was not entirely shared by his questioner Ángeles Álvarez, nor by the writer of the current law, Socialist Carmen Montón, or the leftist women in Parliament. Their radical differences with the Minister proceed from their belief that abortion is an inalienable right for women, independent of socioeconomic circumstances.

The left’s deputies had planned to ceaselessly ask the Minister about his plans to change this law out of fear that he will do much more than require minors between and 16 and 18 to receive their parents’ permission to have an abortion. From there, the phrasing of Álvarez’s question inspired a tremendous polemic.

“Is the Administration thinking of reducing the sexual and reproductive rights of women?” In response, the Minister responded that it would “not only” not reduce them; rather, it would increase protection of the reproductive right “par excellence”, which is “maternity.” “In my judgment, a legislation that limits its protection to the unborn through a penal classification of abortion is insufficient. It does not give attention to the situation of the mother, who should be protected.” As the Minister continued reading, the left’s deputies started to look at each other. “No women should be obligated to renounce her maternity because of a family, work, or social conflict.” “Those are our guiding principles.” The government would accompany women so they would not abort by “promoting labor integration, work training, and guarantees of conciliation between their motherhood and their careers…” This provoked murmurs that didn’t stop until the end of his speech. The Administration, he said, would be very close “to minors, to immigrants, to the disabled…”

The Minister’s response, with a very detailed supporting argument, alarmed the deputies who support the current abortion law much more than they expected. His questioner requested that he not change the current abortion law because the Constitutional Tribunal had not yet resolved the PP’s appeal of it. “You want to change it because you know the appeal will fail,” the Socialist deputy had ventured. “This favorable announcement would go against the fundamentalist sectors you all are promised to, which are always oblivious to the rights of women.” The deputy did not forget to emphasize that 90% of the minors between 16-18 who abort “have the agreement of their parents” and are accompanied by them to this difficult moment. “Only a minority who suffer from violence” cannot allow their progenitors to participate in the decision. But this reference to what he thought would be the heart of the Minister’s answer was long forgotten by the time the Minister had finished speaking.

#violenciaestructural
Just an hour after Minister of Justice Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón said in Congress that “structural gender violence” was the fundamental motivation for future reform of the Abortion Law, the term #violenciaestructural (Structural Violence) was already a trending topic on Twitter. Soon after, it was ranked at the head of the most popular conversation topics.

This tag includes sarcastic examples contributed by Twitter users mocking the term coined by the Minister.

“Maternity is Protected in Other Ways” by C. Morán
“Since I came to the Isidora Clinic 1993, I’ve had so few situations of the kind the Minister mentioned that I could count them on my fingers. Gallardón knows that clinics have a psychological consultation prior to abortion, and the consultant determines whether a woman is submitting herself to the procedure freely or out of coercion. It’s easy to detect it. The Minister either doesn’t understand the problem or is flat-out lying,” assures Empar Pineda, who is head of the Madrileño abortion clinic mentioned above.

“The cases in which a woman is coerced into abortion are anecdotal. Women evaluate the circumstances that bring them to interrupt their pregnancies, which are sometimes economic, other times for health reasons, and other times for family conflicts that they are resolving the best way they know how, but that doesn’t signify that they were obliged to abort. They all make value judgments. Some go to the clinic and then turn around and go home, but it’s because they have doubts. Deciding whether you want to have a child is not easy,” says Francisca García, vice president of the Association of Accredited Clinics for the Interruption of Pregnancies. “If there were a case of coercion, we would detect it. It doesn’t justify a reform that, if implemented, will be for the worse. All international reports agree that if a woman wants to abort, she will do it, and penalizing her is not a solution. What the Government should do is facilitate so that these interventions will be in the best conditions possible. Then they can protect maternity if they want, but this is another issue. You don’t have to talk about them like they’re comparative methods; they’re parallel things.”

“He’s painted himself into a corner, and in a demagogic way, using gender violence. We women are not minors; we are free to make decisions about our own bodies, and this is what we have to guarantee. In addition, if a woman is coerced, it could be to abort, but it could also be to have a child, because there are cases of both, most of all in conservative families, which incite women to abort so they will not fall into dishonor. It’s clear that Gallardón doesn’t have a good command of this issue. You can’t mask it with casuistry. There are many kinds of cases, and very few of them are mixed with gender violence. There are dozens of murders each year, and I haven’t heard him say we need to improve protection, but he’s ready to do that in the case of abortion…” laments Consuelo Abril, Coordinator of Organizations for Participation and Equality.

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