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Abortion on Demand a Step Too Far for Spanish Right

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Abortion on demand a step too far for Spanish right ã Socialist government and church clash over new law ã Thousands to join protests across the country A plan to leberalise Spain's abortion law has shattered a fragile truce between women's groups and anti-abortion campaigners. Photograph: Marcelo Del Pozo/REUTERS A move to allow abortion on demand for Spanish women is ushering in perhaps the most virulent clash yet between the conservative clergy and the Socialist government of Prime Minister
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  Abortion on demand a step too far forSpanish right ã Socialist government and church clash over new lawã Thousands to join protests across the countryA plan to leberalise Spain's abortion law has shattered a fragile truce between women'sgroups and anti-abortion campaigners. Photograph: Marcelo Del Pozo/REUTERSA move to allow abortionon demand for Spanish women is ushering in perhaps the most virulent clash yet between the conservative clergy and the Socialist government of Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, whose gay marriage law drove hundredsof thousands of people on to the streets.The abortion proposal has shattered the fragile truce between women's groups and anti-abortion activists in this traditionally Catholic country.Currently, it is a crime to have an abortion unless a woman can prove that she wasraped, that the foetus is malformed or that the pregnancy endangers her physical or mental health. In practice, however, the law is interpreted liberally across a network of  private clinics, which perform more than 100,000 abortions a year.The new abortion law, which would also allow the procedure up to 22 weeks with adoctor's certificate, is expected to be approved by parliament before the summer.Especially divisive is a provision that would allow girls over 16 to have an abortionwithout parental consent. They can't smoke, they can't drink alcohol but nevertheless they can abort without their  parents' permission, said Guadalupe Barrantes, a spokeswoman for the Right to Lifemovement in Seville, during a candlelit vigil outside an abortion clinic.  Thousands of activists are expected to join church-backed demonstrations throughoutSpainthis weekend. They have already plastered the roads with billboards featuring atoddler next to an Iberian lynx, a highly protected species, which read: What about protecting me? Hundreds of doctors, scientists and other influential Spanish professionals also signed amanifesto earlier this month rejecting the government's plans. The manifesto wasgreeted yesterday with a counter-attack by a dozen leading Spanish researchersdenouncing the political manipulation of science .Even the lavish and tourist-friendly Semana Santa - or Holy Week - processions, held inthe days before Easter, are poised to become a battleground.The processions are ostensibly religious events, but Spain's fiesta mood usually prevailsdespite the sombre parade of barefoot penitents carrying statues of the Virgin Mary.This season, however, the penitents in Cordoba, Toledo and a half dozen other cities plan to wear white ribbons symbolising their protest.But since the 1985 abortion law was passed, the church's power has steadily waned -traditions like Holy Week notwithstanding.Less than 25% of Spaniards say they practice Catholicism beyond social events likeweddings and baptisms, according to an annual survey by sociologist Juan Díez- Nicolás, president of Asep research institute.Only 15% of Spaniards oppose abortion under any condition, and 45% support abortionon demand, Asep polls show. An El País survey found 65% of Spaniards supportabortion in the first three months. This is a very secular society, Díez-Nicolás said.The proposed abortion law is in line with Zapatero's other sweeping social reforms,which also incensed the clergy. Since his election in 2004, Zapatero - and his allies in parliament - have granted gay couples full marriage rights, streamlined the country'sdivorce proceedings and allowed scientists to conduct research on embryonic stem cells.They have also downgraded the teaching of religion in state schools.Abortion was considered even more delicate, however - so much so that the Socialistsremoved promises to liberalise the procedure from their 2008 electoral platform.But a new anti-abortion strategy prompted reform. Activists began to denounce clinicsfor not properly certifying the women's mental or physical danger and other allegedviolations of the law, which led to police investigations in Madrid and Barcelona,according to Santiago Barambio, president of the Association of Clinics Accredited for the Voluntary Termination of Pregnancy.The clinical records of 2,000 women were confiscated and ended up in courts. Somewomen were charged and later cleared, prompting public outrage and renewed supportto decriminalise the procedure.  There is complete legal insecurity, Barambio said. Now if someone thinks anabortion was performed illegally, until you clear yourself, they can close down your clinic and put you in jail. Women's groups welcome the proposed reforms but call for other measures as well,such as sex education in schools. A feminist coalition launched a counter-offensive tothe church on Friday, plastering cities with posters that say For motherhood withliberty and abortion with security .Under the current law, a Spanish woman must get the certificate of a doctor or  psychiatrist - or police report in the case of rape - in order to legally end the pregnancy.Then she must find someone willing to perform the procedure, which means paying a private clinic between €280 (£260) and €2,000 because doctors in the state healthservice refuse.The public system performs only 3% of the 112,000 abortions a year. In some parts of Spain, like Navarre, it is impossible to find anyone who will do it. It's inconceivable that in Spain, which has some of the most progressive laws in theworld, women are still being treated like children, said gynaecologist Dr IsabelSerrano, member of the State Network of Feminist Organisations. ã Printable version ã Send to a friend ã Share ã Clip ã Contact us ã   larger  |smaller  

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Sep 20, 2017
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