Spanish women demand abortion rights

In 1985, ten years after the death of Spain’s fascist dictator Francisco Franco, the Spanish government passed a law allowing for abortions in cases of rape, fetal malformation and when a pregnant woman’s mental or physical health is deemed to be at risk.

At that time, this was a huge step forward, given the almost 50 years of fascist rule and domination of Spanish society by a right-wing Catholic hierarchy.

The country is now debating a new round of reforms. Initiated by the Socialist government of Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero, they are among a series of measures it has worked for since coming to power in 2004, including legalizing gay marriage, allowing for fast-track divorces and giving increased rights to transsexuals.

Under the proposed reform, abortions would be allowed for women of 16 and over up to the 14th week of pregnancy on demand, and up to 22 weeks if there is a risk to the mother’s health or if the fetus is deformed. Women can also undergo the procedure after 22 weeks if the fetus has a serious or incurable illness.

On October 29th, a demonstration organized by the Catalonian group, “Campanya pel dret a l’avortament” (Campaign for the Right to Abortion) marked the International Day for the De-criminalization of Abortion. The demonstrators called on the Catalan government to pass a “good law,” with a number of essential components: decriminalization, that the law extend the period for legal abortions from 14 to 24 weeks, and that the public system for sexual and reproductive health be reformed and improved to provide uniform and of high quality care.

A spokesperson for the group said, “What we are asking for is that safe, quality-care abortions be available in all autonomous communities of the country.” (Spain is divided into 17 such communities, whose governments control education, health, social services, culture, and other things.)

Zapatero has argued that the government should not “intervene in the free and private decision of a woman, who is the one who has to take on the responsibility of a pregnancy during her entire life.”

Photo: Elena Mora