The voice of a Spanish woman

The reform of abortion law proposed by the Spanish Government is an insult to my dignity as a woman and a brutal setback to established rights.

The reform of abortion law proposed by the Spanish Government is an insult to my dignity as a woman and a brutal setback to established rights. We women are not crazy, we are not victims and we are not incompetent. We know what we want – the right to decide about our own lives and our own bodies.

The draft bill ‘Protection of the life of the unborn and the rights of the pregnant woman’, if approved, will cause women much suffering as we might one day face an unwanted pregnancy. This is not just transitioning from the current law [where abortions are permitted until week 14 and after that, under certain limited circumstances] toa law where terminations are only allowed in two very limited cases, when pregnancy results from reported rape or if it poses a serious threat to the life and physical or mental health of the woman. It is also a step back into the past and it puts forth a backwards perception of us women, belonging to a sexist and authoritarian government.

The government wants to eliminate any possibility that, as a woman, I could decide whether or not I want to become a mother. This government proposal treats me as incompetent to decide for my own life and in need of guardianship.  I need to be subjected to a third party opinion, given by gynaecologists, psychiatrists and judges who will intervene in the procedure.

The law treats women as mere victims without power of deciding by themselves. The full weight of the law is focused on the professionals who are involved in the proceedings. This will create legal insecurity which, in practice, will translate into great difficulties in accessing abortion.

When we go to a medical professional to terminate a pregnancy, we have already made the decision. We want the procedure to be safe and brief. In Spain, since the current abortion law was adopted in 2010, almost 70% of abortions have been performed before 8 weeks of gestation and 90.23% of abortions are performed before 12 weeks. This happens under the current law, under which our choice is a sufficient reason in the time frame of 14 weeks. This would be removed in the bill, and it would result in 90.23% of those voluntary terminations becoming illegal.

Accessing abortion on the grounds of grave threat to our physical or mental health and life will be a long process. We will have to demonstrate it by going through at least five different authorities: A gynaecologist or a general practitioner, two psychiatrists, then again, a general practitioner or a staff member of social services and finally, if we have not already given up, there’s a mandatory waiting period of seven days before we will be able to book the appointment to have the termination. We are required to have two favourable reports from two doctors and in addition, two certificates, one that states we have been informed of the medical consequences of abortion and another, to state that we have received information about alternatives to the termination.

But there's more. In the case of a threat to our mental health, mental health professionals must certify something that cannot be their responsibility and has already been denounced by the Spanish Association of Neuropsychiatry: "Women who have abortions are not mentally ill. There is no reason to link abortion and mental illnesses. Access to abortion is about freedom of decision in the field of women’s sexual and reproductive lives.”

Last but not least, the reform cruelly and deliberately forgets situations that are less common but especially painful. This is the case of girls under 18 who disagree with their parents, minors who are in care or in custody, unaccompanied migrant minors etc. These girls are prevented from deciding and the process is even further lengthened, making it almost impossible.

 

Similarly, women who have a foetal malformation will be interrogated and the process will be extended, adding more pain and suffering. They are women who in many cases want to be mothers but because of these malformations, cannot.


The proposed bill raises concerns: it presents a view of women as second-class citizens in need of guardianship, and imposes unjust and almost impossible proceedings that are being put in place to hinder access to abortion. Because of this, the Spanish Government's proposal is unacceptable, sexist, demeaning, unfair, insulting, patronizing and cruel.

Yolanda Iglesias