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!