Spain is moving closer and closer to a change that would be more restrictive than the current law on sexual and reproductive health and voluntary interruption of pregnancy, which established a system based on time limits. Spain’s ruling Partido Popular has been wanting to modify this law, which was passed by a large majority in 2010, ever since they came to power. There are certainly reasons to change or improve the law, but considering the current social, economic and political situation it does not seem to be the most appropriate time to make it worse. Spain is facing tough times and using abortion, which causes so much suffering for women, as a bargaining chip to please the most conservative factions of the electorate, is not fair to women or society as a whole.
After nearly two years of reiterated and sometimes contradictory statements by the Minister of Justice, Mr. Gallardón, the main reason given for this change is a commitment made in the election manifesto. This is not a convincing argument, not only due to present government's obvious failure to implement virtually all of its election pledges, but also because the proposal does not even adhere to its commitment. There is a considerable difference between introducing some changes to the current legislation, especially in relation to 16- and 17-year-olds, and the drastic changes that are on the horizon. Not even the most progressive factions of the Partido Popular could have predicted that 28 years of reasonable laws would be overturned.
In the case of abortion, as in most things, there are reasons to take one stance or another. For some it may be a question of imposing their own beliefs and desires on others, whilst others believe in respecting the autonomy of women to make decisions regarding their own bodies and lives.
Our reasons for advocating the preservation of the current law are as follows:
One. Because it works. The predictions of considerable increases in the number of abortions have not come true, and in the three years since the law came into force there have been no complaints or health-related complications of any kind. The law has therefore largely solved the problems of legal uncertainty that plagued the previous one.
Two. Because it respects women. The establishment of a period in which women can freely decide whether they want to continue with a pregnancy or not is the only way to avoid abusing the fundamental rights of pregnant women.
Three. Because it complies with the Constitution. Contrary to arguments put forward, the current law does not contradict the doctrine of the Constitutional Court, which has never ruled on a law involving time limits.
Four. Because it is more respectful of life in gestation. Establishing limits and providing women with information and alternative resources has proven to be the best way to reconcile women's right to decide with the State's duty to protect life in gestation.
Five. Because it is the most widely used system in Europe. Establishing legal time limits for abortions is the most widespread system among European countries, especially in when it comes to states that share Spain's political and constitutional tradition. In a Europe without borders, it is unfair that Spanish women should be treated differently to French, Portuguese or Germans in terms of their fundamental rights.
Six. Because it does not distinguish between rich and poor. Restrictive laws do not reduce the number of abortions, they only cause women who have no financial resources to abort under worse conditions, resulting in sexual discrimination combined with discrimination based on social class or status.
Seven. Because the population is in agreement. The majority of the Spanish population is not in favour of restrictive or prohibitive legislation on abortion. According to the latest survey by Metroscopia, the majority, 53%, supports a law that establishes time limits such as the current one, while 37% would prefer a law based on medical reasons.
Eight. Because it makes abortion safer and fairer. Facilitating the procedures means that abortions are performed, as is the case now, in very early stages of pregnancy, decreasing the risks associated with late-term abortions. It also helps to ensure that women are treated the same regardless of the Autonomous Community in which they live.
Nine. Because it is an eminently preventive law. Current legislation not only addresses voluntary interruption of pregnancy but also prevention and affective and sexual education for the entire population, especially the younger generation, which is the most effective way to reduce the number of abortions.
Ten. Because abolishing it would set Spain back socially by decades. Today we live better because we are able to make decisions concerning our sexual and reproductive lives without being persecuted. If after only three years we lose what took thirty years to achieve, it would be a step back into the a past that would be difficult to return from.
Ten reasons against one. The Partido Popular has a sufficient parliamentary majority to approve the reform that they want, regardless of whether or not it conforms to their election pledges. But they also have a social and democratic commitment to govern on behalf of the majority. This would be a good time to take a reality check and promote understanding between factions of differing opinion without making matters worse for women facing an abortion, who, under the new law, will be subject to increased suffering and reduced freedom.
It is unwise to legislate against something that works. It is unfair to distrust the responsibility of women. It is undemocratic to force women to become mothers against their will. So why punish women? Is there still time to consider their interests and leave things as they are?
For further information please contact with Isabel Serrano - Platform Decidir nos hace libres spokesperson- firstname.lastname@example.org.
Isabel Serrano Fuster es ginecóloga y portavoz de la Plataforma Decidir Nos Hace Libres, y María Luisa Soleto Ávila es directora de la Fundación Mujeres.
Firman también este artículo: María del Puy Zatón (Enclave Feminista), Francisca García Guerrero (Asociación de Clínicas Acreditadas para la Interrupción del Embarazo-ACAI), Mar Grandal (Católicas por el Derecho a Decidir), Mª Concepción Torres Díaz (Red Feminista de Derecho Constitucional), Marciano Sanchez Bayle (Federación de Asociaciones para la Defensa de la Sanidad Pública-FADSP), Luis Enrique Sánchez Acero (Federación de Planificación Familiar Estatal-FPFE), Carmen Flores Rodríguez (Federación de Asociaciones de Madres Solteras-FAMS), Empar Pineda (Otras Voces Feministas), Ana Alcalde (Alianza por la Solidaridad), Montserrat Boix (Mujeres en Red), Yolanda Besteiro de la Fuente (Federación de Mujeres Progresistas), Francisca Tarazaga (Mujeres por Europa), Tina Alarcón (Asociación Asistencia a Víctimas de Agresiones Sexuales), Teresa López (Federación de Asociaciones de Mujeres Rurales-FADEMUR), Paz Martin (AMALTEA), Beatriz Sagrado Roberto (Médicos del Mundo España), Silvia Calurano (Federación Mujeres Jóvenes), Paloma Gil De La Calle (Asociación de Mujeres para un Envejecimiento Saludable), Elvira Méndez (Asociación Salud y Familia), Pilar Vicente de Foronda (Asociación Igualdad de Género en la Cultura), María Pato Rodriguez (Asociación Eleanor Roosevelt), Silvia Carizo (Asociación de Mujeres Inmigrantes Malen Etxea, País Vasco), Mª Isabel A. González (Colectivo por la Diversidad Rosa Luxemburgo), Maria Ferrero Barrio (Associació de Planificació Familiar de Catalunya i Balears), Amparo Antuña Asenjo (Federación Mujeres Progresistas de Asturias), Elena Álvarez López (Asociación Mujeres Opañel), Sara Díaz Hernández (Asociación de Mujeres de Nosotras Mismas de Chamberí), Elena de León Criado (Asociación Derechos Humanos de las Mujeres y Desarrollo-DEHMUDE), Rebeca Julián Ruiz (Federación Estatal de lesbianas, gays, transexuales y bisexuales-FELGTB), Montserrat Santos Lorenzo (Asociación Galega para a Saúde Sexual-AGasEx), Celia Arenas Casas (Federación de Asoc. Mujeres María Laffitte), Gloria García-Nieto (Colectivo Escuela No-Sexista, Asturias), Begoña Sánchez González (Asociación Feminista de Asturias-AFA, Esther Martínez Domínguez (STEA, Zaragoza), Antonia Jesús Burgos García (Asociación de Mujeres Nerea, Málaga), Carmen Caparrón Crespo (Asociación de Mujeres Rosa Chacel), Carmen Caparrón (Federación de Mujeres del Poniente por la Igualdad, Almería), Rosa Gómez Torralbo (Federación Feminista Gloria Arenas), Lourdes Muñoz (Plataforma Nosatres Decidim, Catalunya), Mar Vicent, (XATEBA - Asociación por la igualdad y contra la violencia de género, Xàtiva, Valencia), Lola Oltra Gómez (Asociación Eleanor Roosevelt), Concha Alarcón González (Asociaciones por la Igualdad de Género Guadalhorce Equilibra, Málaga), Amanda Rodríguez Pinto (Arcópoli, asociación LGTB+H, Universidades Politécnica y Complutense, Madrid), María Ferraz Dobarro, (Asociación Contramarea, Canarias), Fátima Arranz Lozano (Red Ecofeminista), Angustias Bertomeu Martínez (Asociación E-Mujeres), Anabel Santos Castro (Asociación de Mujeres Puntos Subversivos, Andalucía), Mercedes Ruiz-Gimenez Aguilar (Asociación de Investigación y Especialización sobre Temas Iberoamericanos- AIETI), Natalia Salvo (Organizaciones Feministas de Zaragoza), Mª Encina Gutiérrez Ibán (Asociación Leonesa Simone de Beauvoir), Andrea Castillo Díaz (Asociación Ecuestre entre la Vega y la Nieve), Concepción Díaz Rodríguez (Asociación SARAE), Patricia Rodríguez Calviño (Igualdad de las Juventudes Socialistas de España -JSE), Pilar Rodríguez (Partido Socialista, Madrid), Teresa Gutiérrez Álvarez (Igualdad del PSL- PSOE), Laura Nuño Gómez (Áreas Transversales IU-CM), Cándida Barroso Chulia (CCOO, Valencià), Francisca López García, (Confederación Intersindical), Esperanza Montero (Colectivo de gays, lesbianas, transexuales y bisexuales, Madrid) y Nirvana González Rosa (Movimiento Amplio de Mujeres de Puerto Rico, MAMPR).