Friday, October 2, 2009


There was dismay amongst the many opponents of Spain’s new abortion law as it was approved by the government last Saturday. It will now go to parliament for final approval. What has angered many people is the provision that those aged 16 will be able to have an abortion without their parents consenting.

The controversial measure has been strongly opposed by the Roman Catholic Church, the Partido Popular and even members of Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero’s own PSOE.

Abortions will be allowed for women of 16 and over on demand up to the 14th week of pregnancy and up to 22 weeks if there is a risk to the mother's health or if the foetus is deformed. Women can also undergo the procedure after 22 weeks if the foetus has a serious or incurable illness.

The current law was introduced in 1985. It only allows abortion in cases of rape, foetal malformation and when a pregnant woman’s mental or physical health is deemed to be at risk if the pregnancy goes to term.

However the fight is not yet over. The Partido Popular has promised it will challenge the reforms in Spain’s Constitutional Court. In addition a coalition of largely Catholic based groups will hold a demonstration against abortion in Madrid on October 17.

Not surprisingly an opinion poll in June showed 64 percent of people oppose allowing 16-year-olds to have abortions without parental consent. Among PSOE supporters, 56 percent said they opposed the move, according to the Metroscopia carried out for the socialist-leaning newspaper El País.

I have made my views on this issue known in my previous blogs. I accept contraception both to prevent pregnancy and to tackle Aids. However I can only accept abortion in cases of incest, rape or when a woman’s health is at risk. I do not believe abortion should be used as a belated form of contraception and I believe the unborn child has rights even if it doesn’t have a vote.

By chance the Conservative Baroness Knight of Collingtree was in Spain last week. She is better known as the one time outspoken MP Jill Knight who has strong views on many subjects including abortion. On the proposed Spanish law she told me:

"Parents are still responsible for their children’s welfare at the age of 16.   They normally have to give consent for even such things as a tonsillectomy and would be found guilty in courts if they failed to look after them properly.   To ban them from even the knowledge of an abortion is, I believe, quite wrong.   That operation has serious possible hazards and after-effects.   I do not agree that people who have any ‘abnormalities’ should be destroyed.   Will Spain go on to legalise the putting to death of any person who is not entirely normal?   That is certainly what the laws you cite would imply.   I would only agree with an abortion if the health of the mother were to be at risk." 

Well that’s two views but of course there are many others. I asked a number of readers of this blog, all women, all resident in Spain, what their take on the issue was. They told me:

"Those wicked "celibate" priests have no right at all to ever pronounce upon anything which pertains to women’s bodies, nay, anything to do with women at all. They know nothing; I was at a wedding recently and do you know what the priest said was the solution if there were problems in your marriage? He said the cure for problems in your marriage was another child. Still, we’ll soon be rid of them, infallible, forsooth. I hear that there was but one chap ordained in Ireland in the whole of last year. Much of course depends upon the 16 year old. It is a pity that every case cannot be argued on its "merits". But, unless you are very feeble in which case your parents should have kept better care of you, surely your body is your own business by the time you have been potty trained, ok, after puberty?"

"I cannot understand how a socialist government takes such a one sided view on life - supposedly socialism means equal opportunity for members of its society - they are saying a living human being, albeit inside the body of another and as yet unable to speak for itself, but sharing blood and nutrients even the emotions of its creator can be discarded without defence? I cannot help wondering whether this involves their stance against the Catholic Church but then I tell myself how churlish over such a serious debate -although there should be no room for debate. Surely a modern society/government should put in place the means by which this person is defended and left to live? In the case of an unwanted child ( what a terrible phrase- probably in some primitive societies that would be untranslatable) the mother should be helped and supported to at least give birth in the knowledge that emotionally and physically she will not suffer, assured that her child will be welcomed and cared for even if not by herself - or the father ; in many cases it is only fear and lack of support that forces women into the decision to abort with all the suffering and guilt that entails. That a society of the 21st century cannot or worse does not desire to create these circumstances is truly criminal. Suffer the little children? Of course they do."

"I feel that the difficult decision on abortion should be in the hands of the woman involved.  Fortunately, I have never had to make that decision myself. I am not the ‘demonstrating kind of Christian woman’ so protesting in Madrid would not be my way of showing my feelings."

So that’s five views in all – all differing – some pro – some against – you certainly have your own thoughts on this emotive subject – if you want to add to the debate click on "comments" below. If your comments aren’t constructive save your breath!


Tony Murphy said...

The complexity of the issue is probably the main reason why it has always been difficult to reach a broad consensus.In democratic societies governments cannot be seen to be limiting the freedom of women by introducing stricter laws.
The loophole that circumvents the restrictive part of the law is whether the mothers physical or psychological health is at risk.This statement is broad enough that a sympathetic doctor could declare that any mothers psychological health is at risk as a result of an unwanted pregnancy, causing depression or other symptoms.I agree that abortion has become a type of contraception for many which considering the easy availability of the morning after pill seems unbelievable.
However a further concern is in countries like India and China babies are being aborted in worrying numbers because they are not the preferred sex - male.
This practice has led to artificial imbalances in the male to female ratio.In China the male population now exceeds the female by 18%.However with advances in genetic engineering it will become easy to choose the sex of your child - provided you can afford it.
In these countries abortion is more a cultural issue than a moral one.Until women achieve genuine equality in these cultures female children will continue to be less desireable and abortion will continue long into the future.

Heather said...

I generally support abortion but not for girls of 16. If parents are lawfully responsible for their children till 18 then you cannot let the daughter go behind their parent's back on a life or death issue.

Mary said...

Is it really caring or wise to leave a decision on whether to abort or not
up to a 16yr.old or any young person, without the benefit of parental or
family support. A frightened and panicked youngster cannot imagine that her
parents would be there to help and advise- "my mum´ll kill me!" is probably
all she can think of at that moment- and I believe that in the majority of
cases -after initial shock- parents do rally around their kids. Okay- we
want to avoid babies being conceived under these circumstances but wouldn´t
that come in time when a more caring approach is taken and youngsters are
shown that abortion isn´t the easy choice- you are going to give birth to a
child that you may or may not keep and you have to be responsible for the
results of an act of sex. Wouldn´t it be possible that young people would in
time think more before continually indulging in unprotected sex because
they couldn´t just hoover it away.As Tony said,in China it is a cultural
issue- I think it is here in the west too- an easy come easy go society has
deadened our senses to the significance and consequences of our actions-
there is always a quick fix for everything. Yes, I also agree totally that
women should have the right to control their own bodies, for too long they
have been denied that, but how can they exercise that in this case without
denying another their rights too?

Anonymous said...

I really do not think that a 16-year-old girl has the maturity to decide on an abortion. Every woman I have met who had to make that decision when in her teens and twenties said she would have made a different decision with more maturity.

RM said...

Pienso que no entiendo la diferencia entre aborta porque la madre esté enferma o no lo esté. La situación es la misma, ‘muere o mejor dicho se le quita la vida incipiente a su hermano’. Este ser humano ya late en el interior del útero de su madre. Tendría padres y todo el mundo tiene derecho a decidir sobre su propia vida, aquí viene también el tema de eutanasia. Es otro asunto muy controvertido del que también podíamos opinar.

simon said...

Let's not forget that the age of consent for girls in Spain is 13 (only recently raised from 12)! If they are deemed to be capable of deciding to conceive a child at that age then why should anyone say that the age for terminating a pregnancy should be any different?

simon said...

I also note that your MicroPoll asks "Do you support Spains new law on abortion?" It only has a yes or no answer. If people answer "No", are you going to assume that they think the law is too liberal?

Anonymous said...

If a child is deemed to be old enough to decide if they want to have sex at the age of 16 why is the decision to have an abortion beyond them? I believe that it is a very emotionally damaging experience to go through but if counselling and support is offered to them before and after the event with lessons on how to protect themselves from having to go through the same thing again. Whilst i also worry that abortion may be seen as an alternative to contraception to some, i don't understand how having a child born into this world and then given away and having them grow up knowing they were not wanted is any better. I'm not saying all adopted children have problems but it must have a detrimental effect to them. It needs to be understood that life is not black and white, there is a lot of grey. The government will never please everyone. But this is a free world and women should have the right to choose.

simon said...

Anonymous, this is Simon. I agree with all you say about choice. You can probably infer from my two previous posts that I don't concur with Sancho's views on abortion. I see abortion as the worst form of contraception but, nevertheless ultimately, a form of contraception.

I was, however, adopted. I have no problems. It has had no detrimental effect upon me whatever. I feel privileged and, if anything, special. I was chosen, not just a mistake.

It would not have made the slightest difference to the way I feel had I been aborted.

James said...

Whilst Sancho has briefly given us his view on abortion in his blog he has given over much of it to expressing other people’s views, a process which is continued here in the comments section. I have the feeling that the only view Simon would wish us to have is his own. But that is by the by for I have to credit Simon with the most crass statement I have ever read: “It would not have made the slightest difference to the way I feel had I been aborted.” I bite my tongue!

James said...

Whilst Sancho has briefly given us his view on abortion in his blog he has given over much of it to expressing other people’s views, a process which is continued here in the comments section. I have the feeling that the only view Simon would wish us to have is his own. But that is by the by for I have to credit Simon with the most crass statement I have ever read: “It would not have made the slightest difference to the way I feel had I been aborted.” I bite my tongue!

simon said...

If only smileys were allowed on these comments I would have added one after my last sentence

But what gives you this idea about me rather than any of the other commenters - "I have the feeling that the only view Simon would wish us to have is his own". And anyway is there anything wrong with that?

I would imagine that Sancho, also, would wish us to have his view - nothing wrong with that either.

We are all allowed views and we are all allowed to wish that everybody else had the same view, or aren't we?

'Sancho' said...

It is kind of Simon to presume to speak on my behalf but I am more than capable of doing so for myself. I have stated my view on abortion clearly enough, I have included others in my blog and you have all added your views. All are of course different. It would be a dull world if we all thought the same - especially so if you all thought like me.

Anonymous said...

Simon, i meant to cause no offence. I in no way believe that all adopted children have problems and it would be ignorant to say that is the case, i simply meant that i do not believe adoption to be any better a solution than abortion.

simon said...

No offence taken whatever. I agree with you.