Spain has joined Ireland in exporting part of its healthcare system abroad: from now on, a woman who needs an abortion – unless she can “prove” to the healthcare system in time that she was raped or that being pregnant will cause her serious mental or physical damage – will have to go to another country.
Unfortunately, of the main countries closest to Spain: Portugal only allows elective abortion up to 10 weeks and has a 3-day waiting period: and France allows elective abortion up to 12 weeks but usually with a 1-week waiting period. (Italy is about the same: first 90 days with 1-week wait except in cases of emergency.) It seems likely, therefore, that Spanish women who need abortions (if they can afford it) will have to take a cheap flight to the UK and will have to make use of the abortion services here. Those that can’t, will have to find some way of illegally aborting in Spain.
Let’s be clear, because prolifers are fond of lying about this: abortion is a healthcare need that does not go away by making the service more difficult, more expensive, or less legal to access. In changing their abortion laws, the Partido Popular party has claimed this law “defends and protects women, their physical and mental health, and personal dignity” and make a point of noting that a woman who has an abortion will not go to jail – but a doctor who performs an abortion will be jailed for up to three years.
This is horrifically effective in ensuring women who need abortions will not receive adequate healthcare unless they lie about it to their physician. (Once an abortion has been performed, required aftercare is identical with miscarriage.) But passing a law that a woman who needs an abortion has to go to another country is not protective: it’s explicitly uncaring.
This is the first instance of an EU country reversing on human rights for women in this way. No other EU country, having liberalised the abortion laws, has then gone back on itself to make abortion more difficult/less legal for women to access.
The ruling Partido Popular (PP) had promised in its manifesto for the 2011 election that it would do away with current legislation, passed in 2010, that permits abortion without restrictions until the 14th week of pregnancy.
However, with 81 per cent of Spaniards saying in a 2012 poll they were opposed to changes to Spain’s abortion laws, and 65 per cent of PP voters rejecting plans to make abortion for foetal deformities illegal, the government has been notably jittery about its planned reforms.
The impact of the new legislation will be hard to avoid, given it will make abortion, as it was prior to 1985 in Spain, an offence – even if the PP was at pains to emphasise that women who abort will not be punished should they break the new laws. Doctors, though, carrying out abortions considered illegal face up to three years in prison.
For an early Christmas present for human rights:
Edinburgh, Sunday 12th January 2014: 1pm, protest march from Scottish Parliament to Spanish Consulate.