Spain’s Anti-Abortion Government Bows to Pressure… Mostly

Spain’s ruling party, Popular Party (PP), ran on a conservative platform that included the abolition of nearly all abortion rights. But since the nation’s current law regarding abortion is in line with much of the rest of Europe, allowing unrestricted access to abortions through the first 14 weeks of pregnancy (and limited access after that), the government’s proposal to remove that right was met with substantial pushback.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy

Opinion polls published this year have shown that up to 80 percent of Spaniards — including many who voted for [Prime Minister Mariano] Rajoy’s Popular Party — oppose the more sweeping restrictions on abortion.

The ban, of course, was not merely the machinations of conservative politicians, but also influenced by the Catholic Church (hmm… where have I heard this before?). It’s not very surprising given that Popular Party and the Church have close ties, having worked in the past on projects beneficial to both organizations — including siphoning public moneys to Catholic schools and emphasizing religious instruction in schools. (And, again, this seems like such an old story…)

So it’s no wonder that Spaniards were riled when the government proposed a law that…

would prohibit abortion even in the case of fetal abnormality, except in the case of rape or serious risk to the health of the mother.

The latter would be tough to obtain: the woman must find two doctors unaffiliated with her abortion-provider who are willing to swear the fetus poses a threat to the mother’s health. She must also first meet with government social workers to discuss alternatives to abortion, like adoption and fostering, then spend a week “reflecting” on whether to continue to terminate the pregnancy.

Much like our own gynoticians, Spain’s religious conservatives seem to view medical realities through a prism of wishful thinking: if a woman merely “reflects” on it long enough, she’ll see that her pregnancy-related health problems can be adopted away. Just like how rape pregnancies get shut down by the body and how many birth control pills you take a day depends on how many times daily you engage in intercourse.

At any rate, after months of protest and international condemnation, Rajoy finally backed down. On Tuesday he announced that his government was holding off on the ban.

“We will continue studying ways to obtain greater acceptance of the reform, but I think I have taken the most sensible decision at this time,” he said.

“We cannot have a law that will be changed in a minute as soon as another government comes along.”

Okay, so it’s not the ideal reason to back off from the ban, but I’ll take it.

Within hours of the announcement, Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon (a leading member of his party) announced not only his resignation from the government, but also his intention “to give up politics after 30 years.”

While this is good news, it should be noted that this is not a complete surrender on the part of the conservatives.

Rajoy said his government would push on with a family planning reform, but it would focus on only two areas, requiring girls aged under 18 to get their parents’ consent to have an abortion and other “family support” measures.

If the history of anti-abortion legislation in America is anything to judge by, pro-choice Spaniards may be in for a long, long fight. But this, predictably, wasn’t enough to appease the anti-abortion crowd.

Dozens of anti-abortion campaigners, some carrying signs bearing Rajoy’s picture and the slogan “I won’t vote for you”, protested Tuesday night outside of the Popular Party’s headquarters in Madrid.

“We have come here to tell Rajoy that he has betrayed us, he has lied to us,” said Ignacio Arsuanga, the president of anti-abortion group Right to Life.

And, with 63% of the country expressing “no faith” in the Prime Minister, the anti-abortion voters might not be the only ones turning out against him in future elections.

(Image via matthi / Shutterstock.com)

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