Written by Cristina Portella
Thursday, 06 February 2014 02:20
The rightist government of Mariano Rajoy wants a new Act that only allow abortion in cases of rape and fetal anomalies incompatible with life.
Since 2010, the Spanish women have ensured the termination of pregnancy up to 14 weeks on her decision, without alleging any reason. Moreover, the current Act guarantees the right to abortion if the decision to maintain pregnancy offers health risks for the fetus or the woman until 22 weeks. After this period, abortion is still allowed when the fetus presents incurable or anomalies incompatible with life. In all these cases, the practice of abortion is funded in public or private institutions.
This is the Act, which represented a great victory for women in the Spanish State, that the government of the Popular Party (PP) wants to repeal and replace it with another one that will mean, if adopted, a setback even in relation to the existing legislation until 2010. The bill submitted by the Minister of Justice, Alberto Ruiz Gallardón, and approved by the Cabinet in December, only allows abortion in two circumstances: when the pregnancy is due to rape or, until the 22th week, the fetus presents malformations considered incompatible with life and assume a serious risk to the mental health of the woman. In any other case abortion becomes prohibited and professionals involved in its realization would be charged.
The Act that was in force between 1985 and 2010, the first after Franco’s dictatorship, foresaw another possible motive for legal abortion beyond the two included in the Alberto Ruiz Gallardón’s bill. It was possible to terminate a pregnancy at any time since the woman claimed a serious risk to her physical or mental health, secured by a medical report.
Another aspect of the bill that has provoked outrage relates to the fact that it forces women to 7 days of reflection before consummating her decision, during which period she will receive a “personal, individualized and verbal” advisory. This “advice” can be done by private entities and, as feminist organizations fear, even by some groups linked to groups against abortion.
The first victims
The attacks on women’s rights started the weakest sector, the immigrants. In September 2012, undocumented immigrants lost the right to free abortion in the first 14 weeks. They only could do henceforth in case of rape, fetal malformation and danger to women’s health. Thus, undocumented immigrant women who chose to abort and were not classified in any of these three situations would have to pay about 350 euros, the cost for terminating a pregnancy up to three months.
Thus, women who were most affected by insecurity and unemployment in this period of crisis were the first to be hit by the new reactionary laws of the PP government. This initiative is part of the policy to limit access to public health care by undocumented immigrants, even if they are “empadronados” , ie registered in their municipality of residence. The objective was to save € 500 million.
Why ban abortion?
A new Act that would outlaw abortion in Spain can be interpreted from various angles. The first has to do with the deep reactionary mind of broad sectors of the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie of the Spanish state, a legacy of the Franco regime with representation in the ranks of PP. The Catholic Church is also part of this heritage and of the anti-abortion lobby, which is very active since 1985, when the law has become a little more liberal.
The savings provided by the bill must also be taken into account to understand the attitude of the government. If it is approved, the state will cease to fund the equivalent of about 90% of annual pregnancies’ interruptions. In this case are those performed until 14 weeks of pregnancy by the woman’s decision, which will be banned.
The Spanish case demonstrates how any measure favorable to women (and also to other oppressed groups) – especially the female workers, who are the ones that benefit most from the legal and free abortion – can always be taken away by the bourgeoisie. There are no eternal achievements and we must always be vigilant to attempts to reverse them.
A setback that is reaching many countries such as Hungary, where, in 2011, the government began a campaign against abortion, which is 80% funded with money from EU subsidies. In Turkey, the Prime Minister Recep Erdogan has expressed its intention to change the Act that allows abortion up to the 10th week of gestation.
In Portugal, the PSD and CDS-PP have tried, unsuccessfully, to approve fees to women who resort to abortion in the National Health Service.
But this attack of the the Rajoy’s government to women’s rights is causing many protests and discomfort even within his own party. Around 700 gynecologists and other specialists have signed a manifesto calling for reconsideration of the proposal to ban abortion in cases of fetal malformation. The newspaper El País is publishing editorials against the bill and opinion polls have shown that this is rejected by the majority.
The bill was passed by the Council of Ministers but has yet to be submitted to parliament to enter into force. Therefore, is still possible to defeat it, which could only be done with the mobilization of women, workers and youth.