Spanish women’s movement victory over government


Spanish demonstrators for women's reproductive rights

From The Local in Spain:

Spain scraps plans for tough new abortion law

Published: 23 Sep 2014 14:02 GMT+02:00

Updated: Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Tuesday announced his government would shelve plans for a tough new law on abortions, saying there was not enough support for the legislation.

The draft reform, approved in January, would have allowed abortions only in cases of rape which had been reported to the police or when there was a medically-certified threat to the mother’s physical or psychological health.

Current legislation will now be revamped to ensure that 16 and 17-year-olds have to obtain parental permission before having an abortion, meaning that the most controversial aspects of the planned reforms will fall by the wayside.

The discarded draft bill caused divisions within Spain’s ruling conservative Popular Party and angered thousands of pro-choicers who took to the streets to voice their discontent.

The government’s official announcement of plans to shelve the reforms comes shortly after centre-right daily El Mundo reported that Rajoy had allegedly changed his mind, quoting sources from within the government.

“There’s no consensus regarding this bill, it’s looking unlikely that it will be approved,” Popular Party sources purportedly told the daily.

Under current Spanish legislation brought in by the previous Socialist government in 2010, women in Spain have the right to abortion on demand up to 14 weeks into their pregnancy.

Women also have the legal right to abort up to the 22nd week of pregnancy in cases where the mother’s health is at risk or the foetus shows serious deformities.

Under the previous 1985 law, abortion was a crime in Spain except in cases of rape, risk to the mother’s health or deformation of the foetus.

Irish ‘pro-life’ government threatens women’s lives


This 15 November 2012 video from Ireland is called UTV coverage – Vigil and Protest in Memory of Savita Halappanavar- Belfast.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Pregnant women face abortion ban in Ireland even if they’re a suicide risk

Guidelines allow pro-life medics to stop vulnerable women from terminating pregnancies at all costs, pro-choice experts warn

Henry McDonald in Dublin

Thursday 7 August 2014 18.27 BST

Pregnant women in Ireland could be blocked from having an abortion even if they are at risk of suicide after conceiving as a result of rape or incest, under new guidelines issued to Irish doctors.

Experts warned that the Guidance Document for Health Professionals, which has yet to be made public but has been obtained by the Guardian, will give power to doctors, obstetricians and psychiatrists to prevent vulnerable women from terminating their pregnancies.

Some clinicians, including one of the Irish Republic’s leading psychiatrists, said the rules would leave women “at the mercy of a local, moral and political lottery”. Veronica O’Keane, professor of psychiatry at Trinity College Dublin, said a woman could potentially have to see up to seven medical experts before getting a decision on her right to an abortion.

The United Nations Human Rights Committee, which has also been shown the document, has described the guidance on dealing with women contemplating suicide as “an excessive degree of scrutiny by medical professionals”.

The guidelines were drawn up after the Irish government introduced legislation last year to allow for abortion in extremely limited circumstances. The law followed the death of Savita Halappanavar, 31, who was denied an emergency termination that could have saved her life.

Pro-choice campaigners are concerned that conservative attitudes among health professionals will put more women’s lives at risk. More than 100 Irish psychiatrists – nearly one in three in the country – signed a statement last year opposing any kind of abortion reform, including those cases of women at risk of suicide.

The 108-page guide does not include provisions for an independent committee to make decisions on treating those with “suicidal intent”, which was a key demand among campaigners for reform. They argue an independent committee would be more objective than local medics and allow women more privacy.

Pro-choice doctors are also concerned that the language in the first few pages of the guidelines is more stridently anti-abortion than last year’s law. In its introduction, the document states that “the purpose of this act is to restate the general prohibition on abortion in Ireland“. Medical professionals are also advised on the first page that the act provides “a clear criminal prohibition on abortion”.

On page 10, a diagram explaining the procedure for applying for a termination makes clear to Irish doctors that the initial referral for women including those with “suicidal intent” begins with her own GP.

If the GP agrees, he or she will refer the woman to three doctors – including one obstetrician and two psychiatrists – who will decide whether there is a real risk to the woman’s life through suicide. If her request is rejected, she will go through an appeal system involving another two psychiatrists and another obstetrician.

The guidance states that the first psychiatrist to assess the woman has the right to “seek a second psychiatric assessment” or appoint a psychiatrist of their own choice. Critics say this will allow anti-abortion psychiatrists to recommend a colleague sharing the same views.

On the same page it advises that any of three medical experts, including an obstetrician, can assess a woman with suicidal intent and certify whether or not the woman should be allowed an abortion – although obstetricians have no mental health training.

O’Keane, a consultant psychiatrist for more than 21 years, said because there was no national body to rule on these cases vulnerable women were left “at the mercy of a local, moral and political lottery. They could come up against anti-choice physicians who in effect become conscientious obstructors to abortion.”

She added: “The repeated examination of a woman’s mental state by at least four doctors, and possibly seven, the repeated questioning specifically about suicidal ideation and intent, will not only be overly invasive, confusing and distressing emotionally, it will also be time-consuming in a period of crisis when a suicidal woman needs access to a termination as soon as possible.”

She called the guidelines “completely inappropriate”. “I would have preferred a national review panel to make these decisions because Ireland is a small country,” she said. “It would have been better in terms of privacy and access to mental health professionals who are committed to enacting the spirit of the legislation. We have a very strong anti-choice lobby in psychiatry and there should have been procedures put in place to allow women to bypass them and their moral, political, theocratic obstacles.”

O’Keane pointed out that the section called “Risk to life from Suicidal Intent” means pregnant women have to state explicitly that they are going to kill themselves before being considered for a termination.

“This is very bad practice because if psychiatrists are practising within these guidelines then that will be the stipulation, that the woman in question must state that. Yet in the majority of cases of suicide that psychiatrists deal with there is no stated intention of killing themselves.

“The terms of reference are too narrow and dangerous, and we in Ireland have very high rates of suicide and even a government drive to reduce suicide numbers. In these guidelines, what we are actually doing is saying to Irish women, ‘You have to actually tell us that you’re going to kill yourself or you won’t get that abortion.’ It is completely contrary to good psychiatric practice.”

London solidarity with Spanish women


This video from Belgium is called Thousands protest in Brussels on planned anti-abortion law in Spain.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Human rights group targets Spanish embassy over abortion Bill

Saturday 28th June 2014

HUMAN rights activists descended on the Spanish embassy yesterday in protest at the right-wing Madrid government’s plan to roll back abortion rights.

Dozens of campaigners from My Belly is Mine have taken action against Spain’s anti-abortion draft Bill discussed in the country’s parliament on Friday.

This video from London, England says about itself:

British Spanish Society Reception at Spanish Embassy, London Wednesday 25th of July

On Wednesday the 25th of June, 2014, the Spanish Ambassador in London, Federico Trillo, hosted a reception for the British Spanish Society. We turned up uninvited alongside direct action feminist group Speaking of I.M.E.L.D.A and the Spanish Women’s Assembly from the 15M movement in London. We wanted to remind the ambassador, his guests and passersby that the rights of women are under serious threat in Spain.

The Morning Star article continues:

“Women have fought for their rights with great spirit and determination,” said one of the organisers Jade Hope. “For their rights to now be taken away from them is a disgrace.”

The campaign has emphasised how almost 50,000 women die after unsafe and regulated abortions every year across the globe.

Ms Hope added that abortions should be exclusively a woman’s choice.

“No one else has the right to impact on such a tough decision and the Spanish government thinking they can is to deny human rights,” she said.

Women’s rights activists in Britain stood alongside protesters in Berlin, Vienna and Lisbon in solidarity with Spanish women.

JIM JEPPS interviews abortion rights activists Cristina Rios and Mireia Gargallo about feminism and solidarity among migrants in London. CRISTINA RIOS and Mireia Gargallo are both Spanish immigrants living in London, both are political activists working in the My Belly is Mine campaign and they’re also good friends — even though, in many ways, they come from very different places: here.

Spanish pro-women’s rights march


This video is called Madrid: Thousands join march against plans to restrict abortion.

By Alejandro López in Spain:

Mass protests in Madrid against new abortion reform

3 February 2014

Thirty thousand people marched in Spain’s capital on Saturday to protest the right-wing Popular Party (PP) government’s new law that severely limits abortion rights. The law is almost certain to pass in late spring, with the PP having a large majority in parliament.

The law on the Protection of the Conceived Life and Rights of Pregnant Woman seeks to turn the clock back to the days of General Francisco Franco. Under the new proposals, women will only be permitted to terminate their pregnancy in two circumstances: rape and “lasting harm” to the mother’s health. In the case of “lasting harm,” a woman will need the approval of two doctors not employed by the clinic treating her. Under-18-year-olds will need to be accompanied by their parents, and have their permission, before an abortion can be performed.

Abortions based on incurable disease of the foetus or a foetal anomaly incompatible with life will once again be illegal. The law will make abortion an offence and doctors carrying out abortions considered illegal will face up to three years in prison.

Spain will once again have one of the harshest abortion laws in Europe, even when 73.3 percent are in favour of maintaining the abortion law passed under the Socialist Party (PSOE) in 2010, giving women the right to abortion up to the 14th week of pregnancy, rising to 22 weeks in case of foetal deformities.

The same poll by Sigma Dos for the daily El Mundo shows that only one-third of PP voters agree with the new reform, while 52 percent reject it. Even among those older than 65 who grew up in Catholic-run schools under Francoism, 57.9 percent are against the reform. Among youth aged between 18 to 29, this rises to 84.3 percent.

Since the draft law was passed in late December, daily protests have been taking place across the country, culminating in last Saturday’s mass protest.

The protest started when The Train of Liberty, organised by two feminist organisations in Asturias, Feminist Turtulia les Comadres and Mujeres por la igualidad de Barredos, decided to hand a petition to the Congress of Deputies registry titled “Because I decide”. This sparked massive support by women’s organisations.

When they arrived in the Atocha Station in Madrid, the protesters were welcomed by thousands who had travelled from other cities called by the feminist platform “Decidir nos hace libres” (To decide makes us free).

The demonstration walked from the Paseo del Prado to Neptune, with shouts of “[Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz] Gallardón resign”. Marchers carried banners reading, “Allow mothers to decide” and “Deciding makes us free.”

The march was also fuelled by the provocative memorandum accompanying the text of the bill leaked last week, which states that the reform will have a “positive net impact” on the Spanish economy through an increase in the birth rate.

On the same day, hundreds marched against the law in Paris, Rome and London. In France, large protests were held in Bordeaux, Marseille, Nantes, Strasbourg and Toulouse. In Paris, at least 5,000 took to the streets in protests called by 80 organisations and parties.

In Brussels, a demonstration of 2,000 staged a protest in front of the Spanish Embassy and then marched to the headquarters of the European Parliament. Banners could be seen reading, “We are all Spanish women” and “Abortion legal and secure.”

The debate in Congress over the government’s abortion reform got underway two weeks ago.

The law will not put an end to the more than 110,000 abortions that are carried out in Spain each year. Instead, the impact of the law will weigh most heavily on the working class in a context of 26 percent unemployment, attacks on working conditions and salary cuts. Women will once again have to travel abroad or resort to unsafe methods. …

Behind this project lies the Catholic hierarchy. Last Thursday, Spain’s bishops came out in defence of Gallardón, stating, “We bishops always celebrate initiatives that are in favour of human life, no matter where they come from. That is why we see in the bill introduced by the current government a positive advance compared with existing legislation, which considers abortion a right.”

The PP has given in to other demands like the latest education reform, which opens the door to more charter schools (private schools subsidised by the state) in which the Catholic Church has a strong presence. Added to this, religion has been reinstated as a subject that counts towards a high school student’s average grade, a determining factor in obtaining scholarships.

The latest reactionary abortion law must be seen within the context of the systematic attacks on the democratic rights of the working class. The PP government has passed legislation drastically curtailing the right to protest and freedom of speech by imposing huge fines and jail sentences.

See also here.

Thousands of people marched to Spain’s parliament in Madrid on Saturday to protest a potential new law that would severely restrict women’s right to have an abortion: here.

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Spanish government attacks women’s rights


This video from Spain is about police violence against women protesting against governmental attacks on women’s reproductive rights.

By Alejandro López in Spain:

Spanish government attacks abortion rights

28 December 2013

The Spanish Popular Party (PP) government has approved its final draft abortion law on the Protection of the Conceived Life and Rights of Pregnant Woman. The legislation will plunge the rights of Spanish women almost back to the dark days of the fascist regime of General Francisco Franco. It must still be approved by parliament, but the PP’s large majority makes it almost certain to pass.

Under the new legislation, according to Francisca Garcia, head of the Association of Accredited Abortion Clinics, about 100,000 of the 118,000 abortions carried out last year would be illegal.

The announcement of the new law resulted in protests in about 20 cities, including Bilbao, Malaga and Barcelona. In Madrid, around 1,000 demonstrators gathered in front of the Ministry of Justice building calling for the resignation of Justice Minister José Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón, who was the architect of the law. Three protesters were arrested, and others were brutally attacked by the police when the demonstration ended (see video above).

Under the Franco regime (1939-1975), abortion was illegal. In 1985, following the transition to bourgeois democracy, the Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) government passed a limited reform, which still considered abortion a crime except in three specific circumstances: as a result of rape or incest, foetal abnormality or danger to the physical or mental health of the mother.

In 2010, the PSOE, largely to comply with European Union proposals, passed another law, which gave women the right to abortion up to the 14th week of pregnancy, rising to 22 weeks in case of foetal deformities.

In the 2011 election campaign, the PP announced it would review the 2010 law, “correcting errors made at the time” in order to “reinforce the protection of the right to life as well as female minors”, without clarifying the exact measures it would take.

Under the new proposals, women will only be permitted to terminate their pregnancy in two circumstances: rape and “lasting harm” to the mother’s health. In the case of “lasting harm,” a woman will need the approval of two doctors not employed by the clinic treating her. Under-18s will also need to be accompanied by their parents, and have their permission, before an abortion can be performed. Abortions based on incurable disease of the foetus or a foetal anomaly incompatible with life are again illegal.

The new law also allows doctors to refuse to carry out abortions by declaring they are “conscientious objectors”—another step that underscores the extent to which the principle of separation of church and state is under attack in Spain.

Another clause of the law forces a woman to receive verbal information about alternatives to abortion—i.e., to endure face-to-face pressure from anti-abortionists and make them wait seven days to “think it over”. The 2010 law obliged clinics to give envelopes containing alternatives and made women wait 72 hours.

With the new legislation, the PP has once again accepted yet another demand of the Catholic hierarchy. It follows on from the latest education reform, which opens the door to more charter schools (private schools subsidised by the state) in which the Catholic Church has a strong presence, and allows single-sex schools, mostly under the control of the church, to continue to receive subsidies despite a recent Supreme Court ruling banning them on grounds of discrimination. Added to this, religion has been reinstated as a subject that counts towards a high school student’s average grade, a determining factor in obtaining scholarships.

Shortly before the 2010 law, the Instituto de la Juventud (Youth Institute, linked to the then-Ministry of Equality) found that 79 percent of Spaniards supported the right to abortion on demand for women in the first weeks of pregnancy. It also found that 65 percent of PP voters rejected plans to make abortion for foetal deformities illegal.

The impact of the law will weigh most heavily on the working class in a context of 26 percent unemployment, attacks on working conditions and huge child poverty levels. The PP and the Catholic Church, which attack the right to terminate pregnancy based on religious doctrine of the “right to life”, care nothing for those who actually do live.

Contrary to the claims of the religious right, this law will not put an end to the more than 110,000 abortions that are carried out in Spain each year. Instead, working class women will have to travel abroad or resort to unsafe methods, especially nowadays with access to drugs through the Internet.

Under Francoism, thousands of women, mostly coming from working class backgrounds, died in unsafe clandestine abortions, while the daughters of the wealthy were able to travel to Paris or London to seek whatever care was needed. In 1974, an estimated 300,000 back-street abortions were being performed a year, according to the Supreme Court prosecutor’s office.

The control of reproduction, to be able to choose whether or not to have a child, with whom and under what conditions, is a basic democratic right. The central issue is that the woman must make the choice over pregnancy, not any government, doctor or religious institution.

USA: The shocking spike in abortion restrictions in the past 3 years: here.

Irish women’s rights after death of Savita Halappanavar


This video is called Protest at death of Savita, denied an abortion in Irish hospital.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Abortion ban reforms fail to impress pro-choice activists

Wednesday 19 December 2012

by Our Foreign Desk

Irish pro-choice campaigners gave a cautious welcome to moves toward reform of the abortion ban today – but warned that government proposals did not go far enough.

Health Minister James Reilly said on Tuesday that the government would have a Bill before the Dail by Easter which would allow women to receive abortions if a continued pregnancy threatened their lives, including from their own threats to commit suicide if denied one.

The Enda Kenny administration promised action on abortion following the October death of Savita Halappanavar, who died from blood poisoning and organ failure after doctors refused to terminate her pregnancy because her 17-week-old foetus had a heartbeat.

Mr Kenny said the government was determined to push through its legislation and TDs who vote against would risk expulsion from his right-wing Fine Gael party.

About a dozen have indicated that they would vote against any move to ease access to abortion under any circumstances, while the country’s powerful Catholic church has urged the government to exclude the threat of suicide as grounds for granting abortion – which would effectively leave the law as it stands.

But critics said the proposed Bill – which would mark the first time Irish TDs hold a vote on abortion – was merely a long-overdue legislative recognition of a 1992 Supreme Court ruling on the case of a 14-year-old girl who was threatening to kill herself if forced to bear the child of a man who had raped her.

Communist Party of Ireland (CPI) chairwoman Lynda Walker said the government’s proposal was just “one small step on the road to providing women with the reproductive services they require” and was “the very least that can be offered to women in any civilised society.”

The CPI called for the repeal of the 1861 Offence Against the Persons Act which bans abortion and an investigation into the number of deaths and complications that have occurred in the republic in circumstances related to abortion law.

The parents of Savita Halappanavar, who died after being refused an abortion in Ireland, want the amended abortion law to be named after their daughter: here.

Update June 2013: here.

The fate of Savita Halappanavar, who died of septicaemia shortly after she was refused an abortion, has drawn attention to Ireland’s reactionary abortion laws: here.