The government in Spain is reevaluating its abortion policies in dramatic ways, with potential impact for good or evil, on generations yet to come. The Spanish government is looking to re-tighten regulations that were loosened under the previous Prime Minister of Spain. Up until 2010, abortions were illegal in Spain unless necessary to “preserve the life and health of the mother,” and generally not available to minors. Under Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero however, the law was expanded in several key ways:
- Legalizing at-will terminations up to 14 weeks gestation
- Legalizing termination up until 22 weeks gestation if two doctors certified it was necessary to preserve the “life and health of the mother”, or in the case of fetal impairment.
- Expand the legality of late-term abortions to include an exception for “severe” fetal impairment.
- Allow underage girls to procure abortions without parental consent in certain circumstances.
Perhaps most notably, the legislation defined abortion as a “woman’s right,” a massive ideological shift in how abortion was viewed.
Pro-life advocates are pushing back this year, hoping to bring current law back in-line with the country’s previous position. The proposed legislation, officially entitled, “Law for the Protection of the Rights of the Conceived and Pregnant Women” criminalizes all abortions except in the following situations:
- Up to 12 weeks, in the case of rape.
- Up to 22 weeks to preserve the life and health of the mother.
- Past 22 weeks if a severe fetal abnormality is detected, which was not detected prior to 22 weeks.
The law also prohibits advertisements for abortion services and restores several protections the 2010 Act removed, including granting medical workers a fundamental right to conscientious objection, affirming the rights of parents to be aware of the pregnancy of their minor daughter, renewing obligation to inform the pregnant woman of certain facts, and requiring a reflection period before the procedure.
Most importantly, pro-life advocates are intending this legislation to remove the codified statement that abortion is a woman’s right, and instead shift focus to the rights of the unborn child. Gregor Puppinck, director of the European Center for Law and Justice, was positive about the Bill, explaining, “This Bill is not based on the idea that there would be, or not, a right to abortion, but it is based on the first reality – the actual existence of the unborn child: a living human being who exists before birth and deserving of protection.”
Congress is set to vote on the legislation sometime in mid-to-late summer, after the country’s elections in May. Sources from the Ministry of Justice have promised that the initial form of the legislation will receive some modifications before implementing it as law, but have also guaranteed no “substantial changes,” resulting in widespread opposition to the measure, and some degree of division even within the conservative Popular Party.
In the time period before the actual vote, the legislation is being subjected to stringent scrutiny and review by seventeen regional Autonomous Communities and approximately 30 independent groups, from whom the government has sought input. Despite the congressional majority in favor of the measure, Spain is quickly turning into a heated battle ground, with many groups planning marches and demonstrations to protest the suggested changes.
In just a few days, on February 1st, a “Freedom Train” demonstration is set to take place in the country, a joint effort by at least 8 communities and 30 independent organizations demanding that the proposed legislation be removed in full. Other countries are joining in the protest as well. Over 80 organizations in Paris, France have organized a demonstration to take place at the Spanish Embassy on the same day as Spain’s Freedom Train protest, with smaller demonstrations being scheduled in various other cities. A movement called “My Belly is Mine” has begun in the UK as well, scheduling (and already completing) multiple rallies and demonstrations, while Italy, Ecuador and Belgium will be sites for additional protests in the weeks to come. Let us hope the pro-life voice will arise with the same passion and conviction being demonstrated in opposition to Spain’s life-saving measure.