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Spain plans to expand its abortion laws, end conscience protections for doctors

Spain, sterilization

A Spanish government minister has announced plans to fully decriminalize abortion in the nation, including ending a physician’s right to conscientious objection. The July 8 announcement from Spain’s Minister of Equality, Irene Moreno, came just weeks after the European Union (EU) Parliament passed a radical pro-abortion resolution labeling abortion a “fundamental right.” 

“Spain is prepared to definitely decriminalize abortion,” said Moreno. Her ministry will be developing proposals to target “the barriers [of the law] that are preventing effective access,” including the current law’s three-day waiting period, physician conscientious objection rights, and parental consent requirements.

Currently, abortion on demand is legal in Spain up to 14 weeks gestation and up to 22 weeks when there is a serious risk to the mother (deliberately killing a preborn child is never medically necessary), and through birth in the case of poor prenatal diagnoses that are deemed to be fatal or incurable. As stated, the law requires a three-day waiting period as well as parental consent for minors seeking abortions. It also provides conscientious objection rights for physicians, requiring physicians objecting to abortion to submit their reasons in writing in advance. If the ministry has its way, all of this will end.

In 2019, more than 99,000 abortions were committed in Spain according to government data, as ACI Prensa reported. According to El Pais, 71% of those abortions occurred within eight weeks gestation and 24% occurred between the ninth and 14th week. Fewer than 15% of abortions took place in public hospitals or clinics, with the rest taking place at private abortion facilities, according to El Pais. 

Moreno argued that doing away with the conscientious objection is “essential” because “this right cannot be above the right of women to decide about their own bodies,” according to El Independiente

READ: Abortionist: ‘If you can’t do abortion care, don’t go into OB-GYN. Just don’t.’

Spain’s General Council of Official Medical Colleges (CGCOM), the governing body of a group representing 52 local medical colleges, blasted the pro-abortion attack on conscience protections.

“The medical corporation emphasizes that the conscientious objection of health personnel is an individual right to which anyone who considers that a practice or procedure goes against their convictions and beliefs can avail themselves,” CGCOM said in a statement. The group called the decision “unconstitutional” and a “bad solution, which from the perspective of the medical profession would be considered unacceptable, illegal and unfair.”

The president of the Bioethics Committee of Spain, Federico De Montalvo, said any change to conscientious objection rights would be complicated by the Constitutional Court’s ruling that protects such rights “when it derives from a moral imperative linked to life such as abortion and euthanasia,” as reported by El Pais.

Last month, the EU Parliament passed an extreme pro-abortion resolution that included an attack on conscience protection laws, as Live Action News reported. The resolution claimed that objecting to committing abortion “on grounds of religion or conscience endangers women’s lives and rights.” In addition, the initiative comes just months after Spain’s ruling party introduced a bill that would invoke criminal penalties for pro-life protesters and sidewalk counselors assembling near abortion facilities. Spain also recently enacted the legalization of physician-assisted suicide.

Moreno intends to formally roll out her ministry’s pro-abortion legal initiatives in the last quarter of 2021.

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