Gallardón's Law would force women to give birth

Grafitti saying "Aborto LIbre" on a church building in Salamanca

Proposed new Spanish abortion law which would force women to give birth stuns womens' organisations.

After the return of the Partido Popular (PP) to government, the Justice Minister Alberto Ruíz Gallardón announced that he would replace the existing law with one focused on motherhood and the unborn child heralded the return of restrictive rules and a regression in the rights of women; without doubt surprising in the radicality of its attack on abortion. Compared with the past including the regulation of 1985 which was less restrictive because it permitted abortion in cases of rape, foetal malformation and serious risk to the woman's physical or mental health (under which condition the majority of voluntary terminations take place) now women and gynaecologists are unprotected.

Under Gallardón's law, "an abortion would be impossible in this country". So says Francisca García, president of the Association of Authorised Abortion Clinics (ACAI), if the draft is passed by the government into law it will permit women abortion in only two scenarios: rape or grave danger to their physical or mental health.

In the first case a woman will have to make the accusation before a judge; in the second case if she claims damage to her mental health, this must be diagnosed by two accredited psychiatrists. In the case of foetal abnormalities incompatible with life, she will have to carry the baby to term. Francisca García brands as an "aberration" the clause forcing women to discuss their intimate lives with two psychiatrists and warns of negative consequences not only for women who have to bear the cost of meeting the conditions but also for gynaecologists who face up to three years in prison and six years disqualification if they are found in breach of the rules. Gallardón insists that his law has no penal sanctions for women but according to Empar Pineda, feminist and speaker for ACAI in Madrid, this is untrue in practice. "If a woman is fined and unable to pay then the fines become jail terms. That returns us to the judicial uncertainty of 1985 when they opened investigative proceedings against doctors and clinics," she says. In her opinion this regulation puts us back a century and "it forces us to give birth," as suggested by its name: The Law on protection of life from conception and on the rights of the pregnant woman. A regulation that eliminates sex education, the prevention and affords the woman fewer rights than her "unborn child", forced into hard labour if they want to claim damage to their mental health they must demonstrate a lengthy illness, that's to say "it must be a pathology or mental illness that from the psychiatrists' point of view, they can't diagnose."

An ultraconservative law
The group "Catholics for the Right to Choose" is one of the critical voices who believe the new law is a capitulation to the diktats of the Episcopal Conference in Spain, representing the most extreme form of Catholicism in the Spanish state. Their speaker Mar Grandal doesn't hide her outrage, calling the draft law "misogynist, fundamentalist and anti-constitutional, aiming to put women back under their control and placing us at the bottom of the pile for abortion rights in Europe, alongside Poland, Ireland and Malta." Grandal believes Gallardón has made a "fudged interpretation" of the UN declaration in favour of disabled people because in her view "the UN talks about reducing backstreet abortions, reducing female mortality and yet they're telling disabled people that now you're here, we don't want you to breed." Catholics for the Right to Choose want to retain the existing (2010) law believing it a fair compromise that meets the wishes of 80% of Catholic women and men. For their president, Gallardón's is an "immoral law" that has been dictated for the Episcopal Conference and ultraconservative movements and she points out that the PP's election manifesto made no mention of changing the law. Mar Grandal urges PP women to reject Gallardón's law to maintain the integrity of their party, because it turns a sin into a crime and altogether, "this is not what grassroots Catholics want."

On the other hand, Carmen Castro the creator of the feminist webforum believes that the existing 2010 law is unsatisfactory when it comes to the right to choose, sharing as it does with Gallardón's proposals that have to be seen as part of the ideology of an international movement that in recent years has been undertaking an anti-abortion offensive led by unelected so-called "pro-life" groups. Castro says this law is an "ideological trophy" for those groups and "it's terrible to think that what will happen if it passes because it gives us fewer rights than embryos." It will increase gender inequality but also class differences because only women with money will be able to access abortion either by surmounting the legal obstacles and paying the bills, leaving the country, or in some cases risking their health with backstreet abortions.

The consequences of treating women "like uteruses, not people" are related to the imposition of the traditional family model promoted by the ultraconservative wing of the PP and according to this feminist economist sit alongside other government measures intending to limit women solely to the role of reproduction.

A translation of this news story by Teresa García Espejo in Periodico Diagonal.

[Translator's note: some parts of this I'm not 100% sure of (e.g. quotes and parts of the first paragraph relating to the old law. Corrections welcomed.]

Posted By

Jan 19 2014 16:01


  • The law is misogynist, fundamentalist, and anti-constitutional

    Catholics for the Right to Choose

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Sep 24 2014 12:51

A bit of good news as an update: the Spanish government has now abandoned this plan