Spain's draft abortion bill welcomed

Published 23 January 2014  |  

AP
A woman taking part in an anti-abortion protest in Madrid holds up a leaflet saying: 'Please read this letter in defense of life. In 2006, 101,592 abortions were carried out in Spain. Comprehension and generosity could save this child.'

The European Centre for Law and Justice has welcomed Spain's draft law to broaden the restrictions on abortion.

In 2010, under the previous Zapatero government, abortion was made available up to the 14th week of pregnancy, with the possibility of a termination up to the 22nd week if there was "serious risk to the life or health of the mother or of the foetus". 

Due to lack of regulation however, abortion on demand was effectively available until the 22nd week.  Abortion was also available at any time if a serious or incurable disease was detected in the foetus and verified by a committee of doctors, while underage girls were allowed to abort anonymously.

The new draft law put forward by the Rajoy government would tighten the conditions under which an abortion could be obtained, to the first 12 weeks in a pregnancy caused by rape or the first 22 weeks where the physical or mental wellbeing of the mother is deemed by doctors to be in sufficient danger. It could also be permitted where a child has a physical condition "incompatible with life" that went undiagnosed in the first 22 weeks.

Pro-abortionists argue that the reform will put thousands of women at risk of illegal abortions or force them to travel abroad.

ECLJ director Gregor Puppinck was positive about the Bill, saying it removed the assumption of a "fundamental right" to abortion.

"This Bill is not based on the idea that there would be, or not, a right to abortion, but it is based on the first reality - the actual existence of the unborn child: a living human being who exists before birth and deserving of protection," he said.

"[The 2013 law] intends to take into account the rights of all those involved in abortion whereas the 2010 Act gave a large priority to the rights of the mother.

"It is therefore about finding a better balance between the various rights and competing interests."

The ECLJ sees the Bill in Spain as part of a wider trend across Europe away from the language of abortion as a woman's right, popular since the sexual revolution of the 1960s, towards the language of protection for unborn children.

"This Bill, while respecting European and international law, reflects a new political trend in the West which no longer considers abortion as a 'freedom and progress', but as a violence which needs limiting and seeks to improve the legal protection of unborn children," said Puppinck.

"However, the future application of this Bill remains unpredictable and depends largely on the political and cultural circumstances."

In Switzerland, a referendum is being held on the public funding of abortion, while Russia has recently banned abortion advertising and passed new laws strengthening the rights of the unborn child.

Laws to add restrictions to abortion are being discussed in the Polish parliament thanks to a citizens initiative, and Lithuania and Latvia are planning to abolish abortion on demand.

Macedonia has successfully increased the limits on its abortion laws, and in Norway, the abortion limit has been lowered to 22 weeks.

The European Parliament, the Council of Europe, and the European Commissioner on Human Rights have all called for an end to sex selective abortion. The European Parliament has repeatedly rejected calls in the Estrela Report to interpret abortion as a "human right".

The ECLJ believes these developments reflect a "progress of conscience" as a result of ongoing scientific research into the foetus.

"Advances in biology contribute to awareness of the concrete existence of a person from before his birth," said Puppinck.

"As for the violence and suffering caused by the act of abortion itself, the militant discourse supporting abortion offers no response."

He went on to suggest that governments had a responsibility to help women in financial or other difficulty to choose to keep their child.

"Such a law cannot reduce significantly the abortion rate if society and governments do not engage in policies to prevent abortion, giving women and couples the means to fulfil their responsibilities," he said.

"The responsibility of the home life should not weigh only on the mother but also on the father, and more broadly on society whose survival is assured by the renewal of generations."

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