Text in which the author defends ideas and reaches conclusions based on his / her interpretation of facts and data

Ten reasons not to change the abortion law

In this opinion piece, which was published in Spanish ahead of Friday's announcement of changes to the abortion laws, pro-choice associations put forward their arguments for maintaining the status quo

Spain is moving closer and closer to a change that would be more restrictive than the current law on sexual and reproductive health and voluntary interruption of pregnancy, which established a system of deadlines. Spain’s ruling Popular Party has been wanting to modify this law, which was passed by a large majority in 2010, ever since it came to power. There are certainly reasons to change or improve the law, but considering the current social, economic and political situation it does not seem to be the most appropriate time to make it worse. Spain is facing tough times and using abortion, which causes so much suffering for women, as a bargaining chip to please the most conservative factions of the electorate, is not fair to women or society as a whole.

After nearly two years of reiterated and sometimes contradictory statements by the Justice Minister, Mr Gallardón, the main reason given for this change is a commitment made in the election manifesto. This is not a convincing argument, not only due to present government's obvious failure to implement virtually all of its election pledges, but also because the proposal does not even adhere to its commitment. There is a considerable difference between introducing some changes to the current legislation, especially in relation to 16- and 17-year-olds, and the drastic changes that are on the horizon. Not even the most progressive factions of the Popular Party could have predicted that 28 years of reasonable laws would be overturned.

In the case of abortion, as in most things, there are reasons to take one stance or another. For some it may be a question of imposing their own beliefs and desires on others, while others believe in respecting the autonomy of women to make decisions regarding their own bodies and lives.

Our reasons for advocating the preservation of the current law are as follows:

Restrictive laws do not reduce the number of abortions, they only cause women who have no financial resources to abort under worse conditions

One. Because it works. The predictions of considerable increases in the number of abortions have not come true, and in the three years since the law came into force there have been no complaints or health-related complications of any kind. The law has therefore largely solved the problems of legal uncertainty that plagued the previous one.

Two. Because it respects women. The establishment of a period in which women can freely decide whether they want to continue with a pregnancy or not is the only way to avoid abusing the fundamental rights of pregnant women.

Three. Because it is in accord with the Constitution. Contrary to arguments put forward, the current law does not contradict the doctrine of the Constitutional Court, which has never ruled on a law involving deadlines.

Four. Because it is more respectful of life in gestation. Establishing limits and providing women with information and alternative resources has proven to be the best way to reconcile women's right to decide with the State's duty to protect life in gestation.

Five. Because it is the most widely used system in Europe. Establishing legal deadlines for abortions is the most widespread system among European countries, especially when it comes to states that share Spain's political and constitutional tradition. In a Europe without borders, it is unfair that Spanish women should be treated differently to French, Portuguese or Germans in terms of their fundamental rights.

Six. Because it does not distinguish between rich and poor. Restrictive laws do not reduce the number of abortions, they only cause women who have no financial resources to abort under worse conditions, resulting in sexual discrimination combined with discrimination based on social class or status.

Seven. Because the population is in agreement. The majority of the Spanish population is not in favor of restrictive or prohibitive legislation on abortion. According to the latest survey by Metroscopia, the majority, 53 percent, supports a law that establishes deadlines such as the current one, while 37 percent would prefer a law based on medical reasons. Eight. Because it makes abortion safer and fairer. Facilitating the procedures means that abortions are performed, as is the case now, in very early stages of pregnancy, decreasing the risks associated with late-term abortions. It also helps to ensure that women are treated the same regardless of the Autonomous Community in which they live.

Nine. Because it is an eminently preventive law. Current legislation not only addresses voluntary interruption of pregnancy but also prevention and affective and sexual education for the entire population, especially the younger generation, which is the most effective way to reduce the number of abortions.

Ten. Because abolishing it would set Spain back socially by decades. Today we live better because we are able to make decisions concerning our sexual and reproductive lives without being persecuted. If after only three years we lose what took 30 years to achieve, it would be a step back into the a past that would be difficult to return from.

Ten reasons against one. The Popular Party has a sufficient parliamentary majority to approve the reform that they want, regardless of whether or not it conforms to their election pledges. But they also have a social and democratic commitment to govern on behalf of the majority. This would be a good time to take a reality check and promote understanding between factions of differing opinion without making matters worse for women facing an abortion, who, under the new law, will be subject to increased suffering and reduced freedom.

It is unwise to legislate against something that works. It is unfair to distrust the responsibility of women. It is undemocratic to force women to become mothers against their will. So why punish women? Is there still time to consider their interests and leave things as they are?

Isabel Serrano (Spokesperson Plataforma Decidir Nos Hace Libres) and Marisa Soleto (Directora Fundación Mujeres) + 60 other organizations.

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