Spain Is Preparing To Enact One Of The Harshest Abortion Bans In Europe

CREDIT: AP Photo/Andres Kudacki

Thousands of protesters are taking to the streets this month to protest proposed restrictions on abortion

The Spanish government is on its way to enacting a near-total abortion ban, with narrow exceptions only in cases of rape, incest, and life threatening situations. Although some lawmakers have done everything in their power to thwart the legislation from moving forward, it appears poised for passage, thanks to the current conservative party that’s in power.

Abortion has been legal in Spain since 1985. The restrictions on the procedure were loosened in 2010, when Spanish women gained the right to end a pregnancy up to 14 weeks for elective procedures and up to 22 weeks in cases of fetal abnormality.

But the Popular Party, which currently has control of the government, is insistent on undoing that progress. As NPR reports, the Popular Party has been moving toward the right in an attempt to prevent its members from defecting to an extremely conservative political group that has been compared to the Tea Party here in the U.S. Rolling back reproductive rights is a top priority.

The new abortion ban would represent a sharp departure from the rest of the countries in Europe. In countries like France, Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Italy, abortion is legal and often subsidized by the government. Even in deeply conservative Ireland, the tragic death of a woman who was denied an emergency abortion recently led lawmakers to slightly relax the country’s strict abortion law, legalizing the procedure in cases when women’s health is at risk. The only country in the region with a total ban on the procedure is Malta, which abortion opponents hold up as Europe’s “last man standing” against abortion.

According to recent polling, more than 80 percent of Spain’s residents want abortion to remain legal. Protesters have been taking to the streets every weekend to rally against the impending ban. At the beginning of this month, tens of thousands of people flooded the streets with with banners declaring “Because I Decide,” “Allow Mothers To Decide,” and “Mothers And Fathers In Freedom.”

Reproductive rights activists in other parts of Europe are also working to fight against the ban. Protests have erupted in solidarity in Paris and Brussels.

Amnesty International has urged the country’s Minister of Justice to prevent the bill from passing, pointing out that it could set the country back several decades to a “precarious time” for women’s human rights. “This reform could cause an increase in the number of women and girls who resort to illegal, unsafe, clandestine and illegal procedures, risking their health and even their lives. It also limits the rights of women and girls to take their own decisions and curtails their autonomy,” the international human rights group noted this month.

Indeed, Spain’s new push directly contradicts the United Nations’ recent call for nations to remove “unnecessary” restrictions on abortion in order to safeguard women and girls across the world. In a report released earlier this month, the UN’s Population Fund notes that harsh abortion bans often put disadvantaged women’s health in danger, and countries have an obligation to ensure access to safe and legal abortion services.

The countries with the harshest bans on abortion are mostly concentrated in Latin America. But even in places where abortion in technically legal, like here in the United States, a mounting pile of unnecessary restrictions on the procedure still puts it out of reach for many women who are increasingly forced to rely on illegal methods.