Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón provoked a furious row inside and outside of Congress on Wednesday by declaring that “systemic gender violence” forces women to have abortions.
The Popular Party politician, who was responding to a question from Socialist deputy Ángeles Álvarez about the government’s plans to make changes to current abortion legislation, said that “on many occasions” women were subjected to “systemic gender violence for the mere fact of being pregnant.” The law allows women the choice to abort in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy.
“The legislator must not be indifferent to the situation of many women who see their right to be mothers violated because of the pressure placed on them by certain structures around them,” he said. “No woman should be forced to renounce motherhood because of family, work or social conflict,” he continued.
The comments by the former Madrid mayor confirmed the fears of leftist deputies that the government plans to go much further in its changes to abortion legislation than simply reversing the rule that permits girls between the ages of 16 and 18 to abort without informing their parents. A new draft law is set to be presented in the fall.
The arguments voiced by Gallardón were soon picked up on by women’s associations, labor unions and the social networks. Less than an hour after he had spoken, the tag “#violenciaestructural” (or, systemic violence) had become a trending topic on Twitter.
Some of the first to react were abortion clinics. “The fact that a case of coercion might occur, which we would detect, does not justify a reform which, as it is set out, will be for the worse,” said Francisca García, vice-president of the Association of Accredited Clinics for Pregnancy Termination. “All international reports agree that women will abort if that is their decision and penalizing them is not the solution.”