Thursday, March 19, 2009

Why Spain Needs A New Abortion Law

It was only a matter of time. With the Spanish government's proposed reform of the abortion law taking shape we had to reach a moment when someone would call a demonstration in Madrid on the issue. In some ways it's surprising that it's taken so long, but the Catholic Church here has been strangely muted in its criticisms of the national government in the past few months. Some believe that this is because the Vatican has decided that the alliance betwen the Church hierarchy and the Partido Popular is not in its long term interests. Couple that with the attempts by the PP to present a more "moderate" image, a situation which means that they oppose the proposed reform but don't feel able to say exactly why. Now the inappropriately named "pro-life" lobby has called for a mobilisation and we will see how the PP handles this. It's going to be seen as a gift from heaven for the extreme right, who've been feeling a bit frustrated and restless ever since they stopped the monthly demonstrations accusing Zapatero of being a terrorist. March 29th is a good date, South of Watford will be in Madrid to report on it.

The Church itself has embarked on a silly advertising campaign which compares abortion unfavourably with the measures taken to protect the Iberian lynx. The distinctly unsubtle message is that we act to protect animals whilst we slaughter babies. They don't seem to have cottoned on to the fact that the only reason the lynx is protected is because we have reached a situation where there are hardly any of them left. The last time I looked that was not the case with the human race. It seems that they have even chosen the wrong species of lynx, the one shown in their poster campaign is not the Iberian variety. The timing of the campaign is not particularly good either, coming as it does just after the Pope has loudly backed the position that it's better for Africans to die of Aids than it is for them to use a condom.

The reform that the government is considering is by no means an extreme measure, it would do little more than bring Spain more or less into line with many other European countries on the issue. It seems likely from what has been published so far that the new law will permit abortion on demand up to a limit of the 14th week of pregnancy, with exceptions after that point only where the life of the mother would be in danger. The existing law has many defects and was a typical product of the transition in that it opened the door to making abortion possible, but in practice has still left it extremely difficult to obtain for many women. The hypocrisy on display from some of the anti-abortion squad is occasionally astonishing, notably when they claim that abortion has been converted into a "business". The principal reason for that state of affairs is simply that several regions of the country make it impossible to obtain an abortion using the public health service. In one region, Navarra, it's impossible to obtain one privately as well. So women seeking abortions find themselves obliged to travel and to pay. It's always been the case that restrictions on abortion do not make it unobtainable, it simply becomes the preserve of those who can afford it elsewhere.

Then there is the often precarious legal situation in which those who have had abortions find themselves placed. In a case last year in Madrid an investigation was provoked by the complaints of anti-abortion groups and was taken up by the environmental division of the Guardia Civil. Although the complaint was supposedly based around the disposal of embryo remains by the clinics practising the operation, the police decided to start doorstepping without any warning some of the women who had attended these clinics. These were women who had followed the legal process for having an abortion, and had the operation carried out in a clinic licensed to perform them; so why they had to be dragged before a judge to testify is something which only the judge himself can explain. It got even worse at one point when it looked as if the personal details of these women might be handed over to an extremist anti-abortion group that had managed to get itself represented in the case concerned. The current law is simply unsatisfactory, making the right to abortion dependent on a psychological report never works well because it means in the end that the specialist concerned has to be able to detach their verdict from their own personal opinions on the issue – I wonder how many abortions have been approved by psychologists who are loyal to Catholic dogma? It permits intimidation of women having abortions by religious extremists, as well as allowing the same groups to ally themselves with sympathetic judges and use the law to try punish those who have taken an already difficult decision to have an abortion. Meanwhile, three lynxes were born in Doñana this week, it's hard to tell whether the bishops are pleased or not.


Troy said...

Perhaps the most curious demonstration against the proposed law has been the group of 'scientists' who marched against it the other day. The press was hilarious!
"Scientists Mobilize Against Abortion"
The funny thing is that they never mentioned what kind of 'scientists' they were...

Perhaps a few Doctors of Theology in the group?

Now there is an oxymoron for you.

Anonymous said...

Why is it that everyone finds it necessary to attack the church at every opportunity? At the end of the day, abortion is murder and fundamentally against the 10 commandments. Whilst people have the right to their own views and their own choice, in a country (spain) which calls itself catholic, the old abortion law was bad enough, but this one simply proves that spain is only paying lip service to their catholic heritage.

Graeme said...

Although I don't agree even a little bit with your view that women seeking abortions are murderers, I'm with you on the lip service bit regarding Spain's Catholic heritage. It's the way it should be, if most people are not following the dogma of the church then why should that institution be allowed to control what they can or cannot do. Don't forget that the country has quite recent experience of the selective nature of the church's respect for human life - that's why so many bodies are still buried by the roadside.

Troy said...

Wait a minute...murder?

Are you saying that women who abort should be thrown in jail along with the doctors who perform them?

And what is this about Spain being a Catholic country? True it was once ruled by a theocratic dictatorship and before that enjoyed nearly 400 years of Inquisitional thought, but luckily democracy brought about a semblance of secularism. A quick read of the constitution shows that rather clearly. Lip service should be relegated to the Church, but unfortunately their priests do that only too often with little boys.

And perhaps people don't necessarily don't choose to target the Church per say, but rather antiquated thought. Wouldn't you agree that the blogsphere would light up if someone were to claim that the world was flat or that condoms attribute to that HIV pandemic...oops, forgot that the Church is guilt of both.

The 10 commandments were thought up about 6000 years ago, time to move on don't you think, or do you still think that you should kill your own son if you heard voices in your head?

Anonymous said...

abortion=termination=taking a human life= reproductive rights..... it´s all about getting rid of a problem/inconvenience brought about by lax sexual behaviour.It´s a universal moral failure,not a Catholic obsession.Thou Shalt Not Kill is not ´Catholicism´. You can´t solve human problems by killing innocents. Stalin,Franco,Hitler,Pol Pot etc.etc. all tried and failed

Graeme said...

It's ridiculous to compare women having abortions with people like Hitler. Those who wave the banner in the name of "thou shalt not kill" in the case of abortion seem to be strangely absent when so many other people get killed in other circumstances - sometimes even with the active support of religious authorities. I don't know what makes you think Stalin, Franco, Hitler or Pol Pot failed when it came to killing innocents, most historians would regard them as having done it fairly successfully.