Legislation introduced to Spain’s lower house would create a “buffer zone” around abortion facilities to prevent any kind of pro-life protest or counseling in the area.
The proposed law, introduced by the ruling Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) to the Congress of Deputies on May 21, would penalize anyone who “harasses or restricts the freedom of a woman who intends to exercise her right” to abortion. Spanish citizens could be punished for “promoting, favoring, or participating in gatherings in the vicinity of places enabled to interrupt pregnancies” or “causing an impairment in the freedom or privacy” or women seeking abortions.
The bill characterized pro-life harassment as “approach[ing] women with photographs, models of fetuses and proclamations against abortion before they enter the clinic. The goal is for women to modify their decision through coercion, intimidation and harassment. In Spain, ACAI has requested a regulation that considers harassment in the clinics of this type of actions as a crime of obstruction of abortion.”
Pro-life sidewalk counselors would face punishment of three months to one year imprisonment, or community service of between 31 to 80 days. Anyone who violates the law could also be barred from revisiting the area from anywhere between six months to three years.
The law could also prevent the Spanish pro-life group Life Ambulance from offering free ultrasounds outside abortion clinics. The ambulance is staffed by professionals and offers the chance to show women the humanity of their babies. Most women who receive these ultrasounds ultimately choose life for their babies.
El Pais’ reporting on the subject questioned whether this constituted “harassment”; during a testimony of Gador Joya, who runs the ambulance, an official at the regional health meeting speculated that the high rate of success must be due to “torture.”
“Because [Joya] says that many women decide not to have an abortion when they hear the heartbeat. How many women is that? And what happens to them? What is the psychological and emotional cost for these women?” asked the official, who did not make mention of the psychological or emotional cost of abortion itself upon women.
In 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 9-0 decision that a Massachusetts buffer zone law unconstitutionally restricted free speech protected by the First Amendment. The ruling protected peaceful one-on-one sidewalk counseling, while suggesting that laws could be written to outlaw actual intimidation, obstruction, or forceful entry of abortion facilities. Abortion activists in municipalities around the country have seized on the opening to pass laws attempting to restrict any pro-life presence around abortion facilities.
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