Spain prepares to liberalize abortion access


ROME – Spain’s government presented a bill to liberalize abortion, making it available to underage girls without parental permission.

The bill would also legislate for sexual education “from the earliest childhood.”

Abortion is already allowed in Spain until the 14th week of pregnancy and is state funded.

The government spokesperson, Isabel Rodriguez, called the new bill “an advance for democracy and for women in Spain.”

Cardinal Juan Jose Omella, president of the bishops’ conference, questioned the legislation in a tweet: “Who are we to decide on the life of another person? A society that does not protect life in all its stages dies little by little. Let us be profoundly human and not extinguish life.”

Bishop Luis Argüello, Secretary General of the Spanish bishops’ conference, posted a video on Tuesday saying that science shows that the unborn child “is a new life, distinct from that of the mother.”

“The defense and promotion of life is one of the sources of civilization; it is one of the red lines that expresses the moral health, the hope of a people,” Argüello said.

“Since the first law was passed that tried to regulate abortion – called interruption of pregnancy – in our country, the advances of science make us able to affirm with full force that in the womb of a pregnant woman there is a new life,” the bishop continued.

In order to protect the unborn life, he said, “we must defend the mother, for whom we must also offer the economic, labor, housing and other conditions” necessary for her to care for her child.

The bill

The bill seeks to facilitate “and guarantee” access to abortion, especially in the public health system.

It also imposes sexual education “from the earliest childhood” so that their “first contact with it is not violent pornography.” According to Isabel Montero, head of Spain’s Ministry for Equality, children begin consuming “violent pornography” when they are 8 years old.

The bill also declares surrogacy to be “reproductive violence against women,” but does not prohibit individuals from traveling abroad to use a surrogate parent.

Several pro-abortion rights feminist groups in the “Alliance Against the Erasure of Women” in Spain criticized the bill, especially its word choice, “people with the capacity to gestate,” calling it “a terminology that seeks to hide the reality that only women can gestate.”

Both Spain and Chile have had bills on “dignified” menstruation that speak not of “women” but of “people with the capacity to menstruate” in order to be inclusive to the transgender community. Many feminist groups have objected to this language, since not every woman menstruates, including those after menopause.

Montero added that this bill “expands rights, eliminates obstacles for thousands of women, recognizes new sexual, menstrual and reproductive rights, and makes life easier for women and will make motherhood freer and more respected.”

She said that the draft bill will be processed as a matter of urgency.

Although the bill does not change the 14-week limit on most abortions, it would remove the mandatory three-day reflection period before an abortion as well as ending the mandatory information pack women received before going through with the procedure.

There will also be a national registry of conscientious objectors among medical personnel. A doctor’s unwillingness to take part in abortions will be an acceptable reason not to hire them.

Women will now also have pre-maternity leave starting the 39th week of the pregnancy, which will not consume any maternity leave. A leave of absence is also foreseen for women who terminate a pregnancy. Women will be allowed time off work for “disabling” menstrual pain.

The bill also provides for free contraceptives – to be accessible in schools and universities – and the morning-after abortion pill.

Follow Inés San Martín on Twitter: @inesanma


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