Spain must abandon anti-abortion Bill

Press release
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At the end of 2013, the Spanish government approved draft legislation severely limiting the right to abortion. It will now be submitted to parliament. FIDH and APDHE urge the Spanish parliament to reject this Bill which presents grave threats to women’s human rights.

The Bill, introduced by the Minister of Justice, Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon, was approved at a cabinet meeting on 20 December 2013. It aims to overturn the law passed under Zapatero’s government in 2010. Under legislation in force, women can have an abortion up to 14 weeks’ pregnancy and up to 22 weeks if there is “a major risk for the life or health of mother or foetus”. Under the new Bill, abortion only ceases to be a criminal offence within certain very narrow limits: when the pregnancy is due to rape - on condition that the victim has lodged a complaint (up to 12 weeks), if there is a serious risk for the life or physical or mental health of the mother (up to 22 weeks), or if the foetus shows an abnormality “incompatible with life” - on condition that the abnormality entails a serious risk for the mental health of the mother. In the latter case, abortion is permitted at any time during the pregnancy only if the abnormality was not detected during the first 22 weeks. In many countries women have fought for the right to dispose of their own body and to have access to a medical abortion. The new Bill would mean grave regression for the rights of women in Spain, who would lose the capacity to decide whether and when to have a child, declared Karim Lahidji, FIDH President.

The Bill represents a serious threat to women’s health: if women cannot get a legal abortion in their own country, and cannot afford to get one abroad, they often turn to clandestine abortions, thereby putting their life in danger.

In attacking the right of a woman to decide how many children to have and at what intervals, the Bill would inevitably have a huge impact on women’s lives and on their place in society. In western societies it is still often women who have the daily rsponsibility for looking after the children. The 2010 law allowed women to choose the kind of life they wanted. It is not for the State to interfere in such a choice, said Noeline Blackwell, FIDH Vice-president.

The Bill is due to come before Congress in two months’ time, and is likely to be approved by the members of the party in power, who have the majority.

On 12 February 2014, the Congress of Deputies defeated, by 183 votes to 151 (and 6 abstentions) a motion submitted by the Socialist Party to withdraw the text immediately. The procedure is still under way with consultations being held prior to submission of the final text to Congress - expected at the beginning of summer - for debate and vote.

Furthermore, the Popular Party, of which Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón, the instigator of the Bill, is a member, has lodged several constitutional appeals against the 2010 law presently in force, which recognises abortion as a right. The Constitutional Court has already declared the appeals admissible and is expected to hand down its decision shortly.)]

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