Dissenting voices against abortion reform grow within Popular Party

Central government delegate in Madrid and Basque assembly spokesman speak out against restrictive bill Socialists vow to take opposition to the measure onto European stage

The central government delegate in Madrid, Cristina Cifuentes, has expressed her personal opposition to the government’s draft abortion reform. Although Popular Party (PP) official Cifuentes, who recently returned to the public eye after sustaining serious injuries in a motorcycle accident, recognized that the legislation was an electoral promise that had to be carried through, she said that she preferred the previous system of time periods to the government’s proposal to return to a system of scenarios.

Under 2010 legislation introduced by the previous Socialist government, a woman could freely terminate a pregnancy up to 14 weeks. The new draft law, passed by the Cabinet this month ahead of debate on the floor of Congress, allows for abortion in only two instances: rape, and the risk of serious psychological or physical harm to the mother.

Cifuentes was joined in voicing her dissent by the PP spokesman in the Basque regional assembly, Borja Sémper, who requested that the party’s deputies in Congress be allowed to “vote with their conscience,” rather than under orders. “Political parties are not sects,” he added. “The key is to respect the right of women to decide about their own body and their own life, and making it compatible with protecting those that cannot protect themselves.”

My opinion does not coincide with the majority opinion of my party"

The PP mayor of Zamora, Rosa Valdeón, has also spoken of her “worry” over the exclusion of fetal malformation as a reason to terminate in the new draft legislation, an omission which would make the law stricter than before the 2010 act.

Cifuentes said that she was against some aspects of the existing Socialist law, such as allowing minors to abort without parental consent and the ready availability of the morning-after pill without prescription, adding that the new law would signal a return to that of 1985, the first abortion legislation in Spanish democracy, which was “accepted by practically 100 percent of society.”

“Personally, my opinion does not coincide with the majority opinion of my party; I am more in favor of a system of time periods, but I have to accept the measure my party has adopted,” Cifuentes said.

The spokesman for the PP-led regional government in Castilla-La Mancha, José Antonio de Santiago Juárez, also expressed his reticence over the draft bill and opined it should be “coordinated and improved” by lawmakers in Congress.

 The PP mayor of Valladolid, Francisco Javier León de la Riva, who has achieved a certain notoriety for his chauvinistic public comments, expressed his hope that the law would be “improved,” adding that it was an “error” to force women to carry through a pregnancy in cases where the child will be born with serious disabilities. De la Rivera is a gynecologist by trade.

The main opposition Socialist Party (PSOE), which has vowed to fight the legislation every step of the way, on Thursday announced it plans to organize a “European summit for the freedom of women” in conjunction with other Socialist groups from across the EU and “important women.”

There are also plans in place to invite Spanish women’s rights associations to travel to the European institutions and present their case. “We are going to take the problem facing women in Spain to the rest of Europe,” said PSOE deputy secretary general, Elena Valenciano.

 “Incompetent gender”

According to Valenciano, the law presented last week by Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón treats women like an “incompetent gender.”

“This abortion law would not have been approved by conservatives in France, Germany or Great Britain. It is the law that Europe’s far-right would have drafted. The Spanish right has positioned itself to the right of the European right. In 2012 we discovered that the PP was a risk to the welfare state. In 2013, we have discovered that it is also a risk to civil rights and liberties.”

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