The long-awaited debate in Congress over the government’s controversial abortion reform got underway Wednesday during a heated session in which Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón accused the opposition Socialists of taking a “selfish” stand against the planned changes.
Gallardón, the architect of the measure, stunned many members of the Socialist bench when he told them that because they didn’t recognize a fetus’ right to life, this could also lead them to not recognize the right to life of the living.
“It is compatible to defend the rights of a person who is born and those who are not born. But what is happening here is that the Socialists are clinging to their fierce individualism, and to me that is profoundly selfish,” the minister said. “Who knows whether that same individualism they display toward the unborn, they will one day practice on someone who is already born?”
The sharp comments caused a surprise reaction among the Socialists.
"We never thought it would come this far, but your taste for jibes will cost you dearly,” said Socialist Party deputy secretary general Elena Valenciano, who explained that the minister found himself “trapped” by several leading members of his Popular Party (PP) who are against the changes.
Rajoy didn’t go into the specifics of the law, but told the opposition that he wanted to hear from different sectors
Among the PP members who have called on the leadership to soften the reform have been Extremadura premier José Antonio Monago and Galician premier Alberto Núñez Feijóo.
This was the first question-and-answer session in Congress of the year in which Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Sáenz Santamaría and Gallardón appeared to discuss the draft abortion reform that was approved last month by the Cabinet.
The PP government wants to make changes to the 2010 legislation, introduced by the Socialists, that will restrict a woman’s right to have the procedure in Spain in cases of rape or if the birth poses a health risk to the mother. At present a woman may choose freely to abort in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy.
During his turn, Rajoy didn’t go into the specifics of the law, but told the opposition that he wanted to hear from different sectors. “Constitutional doctrine and different opinions of society will be taken into account,” he said.
“We are willing to discuss and listen to you and others,” the prime minster told BNG spokesman Olaia Fernández Dávila, who earlier called the proposed measure backward.
The BNG deputy had also explained that the measure could “violate the rights of those with limited economical means.” A component of the proposed reform limits the number of nationwide clinics where a woman can get an abortion. Rajoy accepted that the reform had become “a very sensitive issue.”