On September 23, the Spanish government withdrew the previous abortion law. The project, which has triggered strong social protest allows Spain to maintain its legislative framework of 2010. Mariano Rajoy, the prime minister who undertook the most sensitive issue in the legislature for Ruiz-Gallardón minister of justice has also failed.
Abortion: too sensitive for Spain?
The Organic Law 2/2010 enables the practice of abortion from the age of 16. Women can choose to have an abortion up to 14 weeks of pregnancy, though if the mothers life is at risk, pregnancy can be interrupted until the 22th week. The minors must inform at least one of the legal representatives of the abortion decision. The 2010 law guarantee all women without discrimination of any kind, the provision of a voluntary termination of pregnancy service.
The bill of 2013 December 20 by the Council of Ministers almost abolished the right of abortion in Spain. It is permitted in a proven risk to life, physical or mental health of the woman or in cases of rape, which has been the subject of a prior complaint. The project incorporated the principles of the law between 1985 and 2010 by adding restrictions. It also required that two different and foreign doctors provide the diagnosis.
Francisca Garcia, president of the Association of Accredited Abortion Clinics said, "The future law will cause enormous complications in the situation for women. It will make it impossible to abort. We expected a bad law. But this is worse than what we thought. Many women abort in hiding." Rich people are going to travel abroad and others will go in clandestine clinics which has many risks.
Recall that about 118,365 women had abortions in 2011. Nearly 85% did so in the first fourteen weeks without giving any reason. The president of the NGO National Family Planning Federation Luis Enrique Sanchez feared for his part "that the Spanish who can afford it, will go to France or England for an abortion"
For Noeline Blackwelle, Vice President of FIDH, "The 2010 law gave women the opportunity to choose what they wanted to have. The state should not interfere in this choice."
This was also a political challenge, Mariano Rajoy desired to overtake the European election and quickly approve the legislation during the summer. However, in this election, the PP fell to an unprecedented score of 26% in all of Spain. Tension rose in the party and up to 40% of PP voters disagree with the reform of the abortion law.
At the same time, the Catalan topic came to the forefront. The spanish Prime Minister had no wish for a new social division. And facing the fear of failure in municipal and legislative elections in 2015, he sought a way to make everyone happy. He withdrew the project.
Sunday, September 21, the pro-life movement reacted. Spokesman Gador Joya said "You cannot trust Mariano Rajoy. He has no principles. The withdrawal of this law will not be free. The Spaniards have principles and we will show him". Some associations prepare to march on November 22 against the withdrawal. However, in the overall, the Spanish and European society has reacted positively to the removal of the law.
Therefore, in Spain, it is a satisfaction for the freedom of women. However, we must remember that in Europe, this anti-abortion point of view is more shared.
Abortion: too sensitive for the European Union?
We should not forget that the majority of the EU members enshrine this freedom whereas some countries pursue a crackdown, which it is convenient to emphasize.
Firstly, in France, abortion is permitted up to 12 weeks of pregnancy on demand. Though it is still possible afterwards for medical indications and after an advisory opinion from a multidisciplinary team.
In Germany, abortion is still illegal but decriminalized up to 12 weeks of pregnancy on the woman's request after a compulsory interview (except in cases of rape). In addition, abortion is allowed after positive opinion of two doctors "if the physical or mental health of the mother is in danger."
In Romania, abortion is allowed up to 14 weeks of pregnancy on request and beyond fetal risk or if the woman's life.
However, in European islands the right to abortion is more delicate. For instance, Cyprus does not set time limit for abortion. And for an adequate reason, abortion is allowed only on rape or incest, fetal malformation, risk to health of women and for economic and social causes. The agreement of two doctors is required.
In Malta, abortion is illegal except in cases of rape or fetal abnormality. A protocol attached to the Treaty of Malta's accession to the EU (2004) ensures that current and future EU legislation may change the Maltese law on abortion. Abortion is a crime punishable with up to 3 years' imprisonment.
Similarly in Ireland, a very catholic country, if the abortion was prohibited in the 1983 Constitution, the legislation has eased slightly since last July. Abortion is allowed in case of risk for the life of the mother. It took a scandal and death in October 2012 of Savita Halappanavar, a pregnant mother died following a miscarriage in order to move the lines. Victims of rape, incest or pregnant women with severe malformations are still not allowed having an abortion in Ireland. The penalty for punishing a woman who undergoes an illegal abortion (or physician practitioner) was reduced to 14 years in prison instead of life imprisonment.
Finally, a country that has recently reformed itself is Portugal. The parliament adopted March 8, 2007 a bill legalizing abortion until the tenth week of pregnancy. On February 11, 2007, the Portuguese had voted by referendum and 59.3% of voters had said, "yes" against 40.8% for "no." This legislation was a turning point in the history of Portugal. Recall that the previous Portuguese legislation was among the most repressive in the EU.
So to conclude, a recent setback in European Parliament shows however that the subject is still far from reaching a consensus. Edite Estrela who chaired the Parliamentary Committee for Women's Rights and Gender Equality has proposed widespread access to contraception and safe abortion services within the Union. However, her suggestion was rejected. The road is still long.
Edited by: Lisa Enocsson