Protesting abortion, even peacefully and quietly, is a crime. This was decided by the Spanish Chamber of Deputies, approving a bill with 204 votes in favor (including the Socialists and other parties), and 144 against (Popular and Vox). The bill now moves to the Senate, where final approval is almost certain. Those who present themselves in front of abortion clinics to distribute leaflets or even simply to pray will be liable to imprisonment for a period of three months to one year! The draft bill intends to punish “harassing, offensive, intimidating, or coercive acts” that would undermine the “freedom of women.”
The objective of the Socialists, prime movers of the reform, is to ensure “legal certainty both to women who want to terminate a pregnancy and to health workers who participate in it,” as provided under a 2010 law allowing abortion up to the 14th week of gestation. The reform would be aimed at “ensuring a safety zone around health centers that facilitates voluntary termination of pregnancy so as to ensure the women’s privacy, their physical and moral freedom and safety, and their right to freedom of movement, thus women’s sexual and reproductive rights.”
Right-wing and pro-life movements are not resigned to it
The Popular Party and Vox announce an appeal to the Constitutional Court for violation of fundamental rights, freedom of assembly in public and manifestation of thought. Among the Spanish politicians opposed to the limitation is the popular Jaime Mayor Oreja, former Minister of the Interior, who called it “peculiar” that the Penal Code could be reformed for “an activity as concrete, limited and exemplary as praying and trying to explain to mothers what abortion means.” The new law, added Mayor Oreja, “attacks the freedom of expression and demonstration,” which is why “it will have to go through the Constitutional Court.”
For its part, the Spanish Foundation of Christian Lawyers has started a legal aid service for pro-lifers who go in front of abortion facilities to inform and pray. Through www.rezarnoesdelito.es, individuals will be able to find information and request free legal advice.
The Catholic Propagandists Association has challenged the new law with a new campaign and the following motto: “Praying in front of abortion clinics is good.” Jaume Vives, head of this campaign, said that “the basic question is to ask whether what a woman carries inside her is a child or not. If it is, then the least you can do is pray.”
For the Left, women would be hostage to “hordes of fundamentalists”
The spokeswoman of the Spanish Socialist Party on equality, Laura Berja, however, accused the Populars and Vox of having “chosen the wrong side”, that of “harassers”. Center-right MPs, the Socialist MP added, would not be defending any religious freedom but, rather, would be “pointing the finger” at women who have abortions, instead of “respecting their decision.”
On the same wavelength is the spokeswoman of Unidas Podemos, Martina Velarde, concerned about the idea that women faced with the “hard decision” of abortion should “find hordes of fundamentalists” in front of the clinics. “I can’t think of anything more contrary to religious freedom than using prayer to limit the freedom of others,” Velarde added.