Spain’s Popular Party star candidate: “Neanderthals also used abortion”

The conservative group is in hot water after congressional candidate Adolfo Suárez Illana made a series of incendiary comments on terminations

Adolfo Suárez Illana (l) with PP leader Pablo Casado.
Adolfo Suárez Illana (l) with PP leader Pablo Casado.Álvaro García
Natalia Junquera

Spain’s conservative Popular Party (PP) is once again in hot water after its new congressional candidate made a series of incendiary claims about abortion. Adolfo Súarez Illana – who is the eldest son of Spain’s first democratically elected prime minister after the 1975 transition to democracy, Adolfo Suárez González – stated on Thursday that “abortion has been around for 100,000 years. The Neanderthals also used it. But they waited for the baby to be born and cut off its head.”

He’s done a great favor to the left. I think it’s unacceptable; barbaric

Former PP deputy Celia Villalobos

Súarez Illana was meant to be a star signing for the PP ahead of the April 28 general election, and will run second on the candidate list after party leader Pablo Casado. But his statements this week about abortion have left the conservative party embarrassed.

In an interview with the Madrid-based radio station Onda Cero, Súarez Illana combined the topics of abortion, traffic accidents and suicides. “We spend €740 million on road safety each year, which kills between 1,500 and 1,800 people a year. But interestingly we are not doing anything in two areas: one that claims 8,000 lives a year, suicide; and abortion, which claims 100,000 lives a year,” he said. “It is outrageous that we don’t do anything. Women have to decide between being the mothers of a dead child or a living child.”

Súarez Illana added that “an embryo is not a tumor. That’s obvious. If you don’t touch that embryo it will end up being a man with a beard or a lovely lady.” He also falsely claimed that New York had just approved a “law which allows abortion after birth.”

The PP was forced to call on Súarez Illana to issue an apology for his comments. At an event in Logroño, a city in the northern province of La Rioja, Suárez Illana said: “After making a comparison between the Neanderthals and the New York law, I spent all afternoon looking to see if my affirmation was correct or not, and an office in New York confirmed that it is not correct. When one makes a mistake and blunders, it is best to ask for forgiveness. I’m very sorry. That’s the end of the controversy.”

Adolfo Suárez Illana at an act in Logroño.
Adolfo Suárez Illana at an act in Logroño.RAQUEL MANZANARES (EFE)

Growing divisions with the PP

The issue of abortion has divided the PP. Previous comments made by party leader Pablo Casado linking the issue of abortion with the sustainability of Spain’s pensions system had upset many within the group, who argued the position was not going to help them win votes ahead of the election. Casado paid heed to this and decided not to promise a return to Spain’s restrictive 1985 abortion law – which only allowed pregnancy terminations in very limited cases – during his election campaign.

But while the PP leader has tried to bury the debate on abortion, it has flared up again thanks to Súarez Illana. More moderate members of the PP who have not been chosen to run for Congress have harshly criticized Súarez Illana’s comments. “It’s an embarrassment; complete nonsense,” said one leader from the moderate sector of the party.

Former PP deputy Celia Villalobos told EL PAÍS, “He’s done a great favor to the left. I think it’s unacceptable; barbaric. My stomach turned on hearing it.”

“I don’t support these statements,” added Marta González, PP vice secretary of communication, in reference to Suárez Illana’s comments. “There are many opinions in the PP: from those who are absolutely against [abortion] to those who believe that every woman has a different personal and family situation that only she can assess. We do all agree that a woman should not think she is forced to make this decision for lack of social support or because of an unfavorable work or economic situation.”

Suárez Illana falsely claimed that New York had approved a “law which allows abortion after birth”

After Suárez Illana apologized, PP deputy secretary Javier Maroto wrote on Twitter that the party’s official position is to wait for the Constitutional Court to announce its decision on the appeal brought against the current abortion law, which was introduced in 2010 under Socialist Party (PSOE) Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, and allows abortion on demand during the first trimester.

Despite this position, top PP leaders – including secretary general Teodoro García Egea – attended a march against abortion and the “culture of death” in Madrid on Sunday.

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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