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Spanish abortion reform stirs controversy

A demonstrator carries a sign reading “Costless And Free Abortion” during a pro-choice protest against the government’s proposed new abortion law in Bilbao, yesterday. Spain’s centre-right government moved to make it harder for women to get an abortion on Friday, restricting a law that had allowed the procedure on request within a 14-week term, in a bid to rally core conservative support.
Protests continue across the country against a return to the 1985 law

MADRID — The centre-right Spanish government reform that hardened abortion law was met with strong criticism from the leftwing opposition yesterday, which considered it to a step back to 30 years ago. On the other hand, pro-life groups complained the move was not radical enough.

Derecho a Vivir (Right to Live), an anti-abortion organization, celebrated that fact the 2010 law which enabled women to abort within the first 14 weeks of pregnancy will be repealed, but said that it’s possible that termination on the grounds serious physical or psychological harm suffered by the mother could continue to be a “loophole.”

The pro-life group also complained that abortion continues to be funded by Social Security in cases that the law stipulates and to that abortion after rape remains an option.

The modification to the law on the protection of unborn babies and pregnant women’s rights fulfills an election promise of the Popular Party (PP) and places Spain among the most restrictive countries in the European Union in terms of abortion.

The PSOE said yesterday that the law is huge a step back for society, claming it deprives Spanish women of freedom and dignity and pledged to fight against it.

“We have gone backwards and therefore gone back to being afraid, because there was a lot of fear when there wasn’t safe abortion legislation in place. We are going back to the times when we forced women to give birth to babies with serious malformations,” said the number two of the PSOE Elena Valenciano, at a rally in defence of women’s freedom of choice.

Valenciano warned that women with the resources to do so will fly to London to abort just like they did years ago.

“We can’t decide for ourselves or think for ourselves. We need medical certificates, doctors and offices. We are treated as if we were useless and I wonder if the PP women are ashamed of being treated like this,” she added.

The new bill allows abortion in only two cases: within 12 weeks of rape or up to 22 weeks when the pregnant woman’s physical or mental health is at risk.

Moreover, in order for a woman to abort she must provide reports from two specialized doctors that work in the medical centre where the abortion will take place, except in an emergency when the woman’s life is at risk.

The Spanish government has defended the move, saying that the reform improves women’s rights and also the rights of unborn babies.

Professional groups such as the Association of Accredited Clinics for Termination of Pregnancy (ACAI) or the Spanish Society of Contraception; NGOs such as Planned Parenthood Federation and Médicos del Mundo (World Doctors); and unions like the Workers’ Comissions have all rejected the new ruling.

Since the content of the draft became known demonstrations have been held across the country to oppose the amendment, with cries of “Retroactive Abortion for Ga-llardón” or “We want rosaries out of our ovaries.”

“We already have a law that is in line with the rest of Europe that respects women’s freedom to choose,” said Félix García, a protester who is in favour of abortion in a rally in front of the Ministry of Justice.

“I think that going back to the 1985 law is something that we can’t afford to do in this day and age,” he added.

Herald with Reuters

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