Spain’s new abortion law is now in operation – probably the most liberal legislation of its type in Europe - including the provision allowing 16 year olds to have a termination without reference to their parents if they believe there would be conflict.
However the problem for the socialist government in Madrid is that many of the regions of the country are ruled by the opposition centre-right Partido Popular. The PP has been closely aligned with the Catholic Church in its fierce opposition to the new legislation. Whilst it will not flout the law of the land it has made it clear that the clause allowing medical staff to refuse to carry out abortions on conscientious grounds will be backed to the hilt so in effect stopping terminations.
Nowhere is this policy being followed more strongly than in the region that governs the nation’s capital, Madrid. Its minister of health, Javier Fernández-Lasquetty, stated on Tuesday that the majority of the medical professionals would not be willing to carry out abortions except in exceptional circumstances, for example where the mother’s life was at risk.
Speaking on the region’s TV station, Telemadrid, Lasquetty assured viewers that the Comunidad de Madrid would respect the new abortion law – “the law with which we must comply” – but would preserve “at all times” the right of the professionals, particularly doctors and nurses, who refuse to carry out abortions because it goes against their conscience.
The minister stressed there was no change to the situation which had existed since 1985 when Spain had introduced its first abortion law. “The Comunidad de Madrid, in its public hospitals, will not oblige anybody to carry out an abortion and the reality is that the majority of the professionals, will not carry out these operations except in exceptional circumstances and their right to do so is absolutely guaranteed by the regional government.”
This same stance is being followed by all the regions governed by the PP which means that the majority of abortions will have to be carried out by private clinics.
Lasquetty said it was a “sad day” when the new law came in to effect. He added it had not been an electoral promise of the Zapatero PSOE government – on the contrary – the Spanish premier had undertaken during the election campaign not to reform the abortion law. “The law has no electoral support”.
The minister insisted there were no type of plot or boycott on the part of the regional governments governed by the Partido Popular. He stated: “The PP has presented an appeal on the unconstitutionality of the law to the Constitutional Court and, God willing, it will be resolved before long, but we are in a State of law, under the command of the law and the law must be obeyed.”
Now long term readers of my blog will know that as a matter of conscience I do not support abortion except in the most extreme circumstances. I do not believe abortion should be used as a belated form of contraception and I believe the unborn child has the right to be protected – by us.
But, and yes there is often a but in my columns, I do not believe that the Partido Popular should take a stance on this issue. It is ridiculous to suppose that all members of the PP are against it – many will support abortion. Equally many of us on the left deplore the PSOE legislation but certainly the PP does not speak for me.
Also, like it or not, the legislation is now law. Whilst it is right that those medical staff who do not wish to carry out abortions on ethical grounds should be protected from doing so - it is wrong that the PP should manipulate their objections to further their own political goals. The law is the law.
I would argue for abortion to be taken out of the political arena and either the members of parliament should be allowed to vote freely or it should be put to a referendum. It is too important an issue to play party politics with.