ABORTION IN SPAIN: A TRIP BACK IN TIME (LOW B2)
A protest calling for the legalization of abortion in 1978 in Madrid. / CHEMA CONESA (EL PAÍS)
Women in Spain can currently opt for an abortion during the first 14 weeks of their pregnancy, no questions asked. After that, a medical report is required and certain criteria need to be met: abortions are legal until week 22 if a health risk is detected, and at any point if the fetus shows severe abnormality or suffers from a condition that is incompatible with life outside the womb.
Things have been this way for just under three years, after the Socialist administration of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero passed legislation phasing out the previous law, which criminalized abortion for the entire duration of the pregnancy, with exceptions made for rape, health risks or fetal abnormality.
But this law, which brought Spain in line with most other European countries and made motherhood a choice, not an imposition, is now hanging by a thread.
Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón, of the ruling conservative Popular Party (PP), has announced legal reforms that will eliminate abortion on demand until week 14 and go back to the earlier system.
The change, experts warn, would not only take Spain back more than 25 years. The new regulations would also place Spain at the same level as Malta or Ireland, the only two EU members where fetal abnormalities are not considered a valid reason for abortion. The justice minister has made it quite clear that he will eliminate this reason for requesting an abortion in Spain as well.
The change would affect the 3,000 or so extremely serious cases of birth defects diagnosed each year, says the gynecologist Pilar Martínez Ten, an expert in prenatal diagnosis. It means that women whose developing fetuses suffer from severe brain disorders such as ACC or anencephaly (where part or most of the brain is missing) will have to go abroad to terminate their pregnancies.
“The restriction will also prevent an autopsy from being carried out to determine whether the disease will occur again with other children,” says Martínez Ten.
Experts are certain that a more restrictive law will not put a stop to the more than 110,000 abortions that are carried out in Spain each year; instead, women without the means to travel abroad will resort to unsafe methods. And in the 21st century, clandestine abortions are no longer performed by midwives at home, says the gynecologist Isabel Serrano. “Women will use drugs that were not meant for this use, and this will cause them serious health problems.”
Gallardón’s plans have attracted criticism not just from the opposition, but also from some sectors of his own party. The deputy spokesman of the Popular Group in Congress, Rafael Hernando, has spoken out against making abortion illegal for fetal abnormality. Meanwhile, the party’s secretary general, María Dolores de Cospedal, has refused to make any comments until the government brings the actual bill to the table. While Gallardón has been deliberately vague about the specifics of the reform, he has repeatedly said that the new law will eliminate fetal abnormality as a legal cause of abortion, a move that many observers see as a concession to the party’s most right-wing sector and to the Catholic Church.
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT GALLARDÓN´S PLANS TO TIGHTEN ABORTION LAW IN SPAIN?