Skip to main content

Spain 'heading for self-made mess' with abortion ban

By Ann Furedi, abortion charity CEO, Special to CNN
updated 8:31 AM EST, Tue February 18, 2014
Women protest in Madrid against the proposed changes to Spain's abortion law .
Women protest in Madrid against the proposed changes to Spain's abortion law .
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Spain's proposed abortion law would restrict abortion to rape victims or women who would suffer lasting harm
  • It would effectively reverse a 2010 law allowing abortion on request for the first 14 weeks
  • Ann Furedi says Spanish woman would have to travel to other countries for terminations
  • Furedi says women should be able to make a decision in line with their own moral values

Editor's note: Ann Furedi is the chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service -- a registered charity and the largest single abortion provider in the UK. It also offers other services such as pregnancy testing, counseling and STI screening. The views expressed in this commentary are solely hers. For a contrasting view point, click here.

(CNN) -- Spain's controversial, and highly restrictive, new abortion law is now before Parliament, with approval looming.

If passed this would mean that abortions will be permitted in only two circumstances: rape, and risk of "lasting harm" to the mother's health. The move would effectively reverse the abortion law of 2010, which permitted abortion on request in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy, and up to 22 weeks where there was serious risk of fetal anomaly.

Contrasting view: 'No unborn child is unworthy of legal protection'

Ann Furedi
Ann Furedi

The widespread opposition, both within Spain and elsewhere in Europe, indicates that the Popular Party's interest in the abortion law is not underwritten by a wider public and political desire to restrict abortion access. Throughout most countries in the developed world, with notable exceptions such as the Republic of Ireland, women's need for abortion is recognized by law and provided for through services, which are often publicly funded.

But the Spanish situation provides a shocking reminder of how quickly things can change in a country -- and the extreme consequences this can have for women.

Back in 2004, a British newspaper wrongly accused British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) of referring women to Spain, when they were "too late" to have an abortion in Britain.

The reality was that doctors in Spain were, at that time, legally able to provide abortions at later gestations than the 24-week "time limit" permitted by British law. In the extremely rare cases where women were desperate to access abortion late in pregnancy, they would sometimes find that only a Spanish clinic was able to help them.

Crossfire: Abortion exception for rape?
Texas abortion restrictions overturned
Ireland abortion bill vote

The Spanish law of 2010 restricted abortions in later gestations, but did establish abortion on request earlier in pregnancy. Yet barely five years on, Spanish women find themselves effectively deprived of any ability to access abortion at any gestation.

Will this mean that their need for abortion goes away? Of course not. What it means is that Spanish women, like Irish women, will be forced to travel for care to Britain and other European countries.

The Irish experience shows with heartbreaking clarity that when a nation makes abortion illegal, it does not prevent women's need for abortion, or their determination to access safe procedures. Outlawing abortion simply sends the issue overseas, increasing the financial and emotional cost to women and, of course, the gestation at which they are able to access a termination.

Politicians in the 21st century must accept that abortion is a necessary back-up to contraception, and that it should be a woman's private and personal decision that she is able to make according to what she thinks is best for her and her family. It is a travesty that abortion is included in the criminal statute in so many countries -- including Britain.

As a moral matter it should be for a woman to decide in line with her values; she should be allowed to take responsibility for life and choose what she thinks is best. As a medical matter, if should be regulated like any other medical procedure.

This point was put very nicely by the London Times in December 2013, in a leading article challenging the new Spanish law.

"To bring the criminal law into an issue of women's health and conscientious reflection is an abuse of government power," argued this establishment newspaper. "A constitutional society does not intrude into areas of personal judgment that most citizens consider fall within the authority of the family. Social engineering is the practice of autocratic governments."

Spain is heading towards a self-made mess. We know from the situation in the Republic of Ireland, and Northern Ireland, what the consequences of its new law are likely to be. The lesson for other governments is that they should stay out of women's personal decisions. "Nosotras Decidimos," proclaim the Spanish women's organizations protesting against their inhumane new law -- "We Decide."

Throughout Europe, organizations such as BPAS will be standing behind them, and providing the services that these women need. But how much better it would be if they could access this care at home - as, until so recently, they could.

Read more: 2009 -- Spanish Parliament approves abortion bill

The views expressed in this commentary are solely those of Ann Furedi.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 8:42 AM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
The former U.K. prime minister and current U.N. envoy says there are 500 days left to fulfill the Millennium Goals' promise to children.
updated 9:10 AM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
Julian Zelizer says the left mistrusts Clinton but there are ways she can win support from liberals in 2016
updated 7:49 AM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
Peter Bergen says the terror group is a huge threat in Iraq but only a potential one in the U.S.
updated 1:34 PM EDT, Sat August 16, 2014
Mark O'Mara says the way cops, media, politicians and protesters have behaved since Michael Brown's shooting shows not all the right people have learned the right lessons
updated 11:23 AM EDT, Sun August 17, 2014
Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling says the American military advisers in Iraq are sizing up what needs to be done and recommending accordingly
updated 3:41 PM EDT, Fri August 15, 2014
Marc Lamont Hill says the President's comments on the Michael Brown shooting ignored its racial implications
updated 5:46 PM EDT, Fri August 15, 2014
Joe Stork says the catastrophe in northern Iraq continues, even though many religious minorities have fled to safety: ISIS forces -- intent on purging them -- still control the area where they lived
updated 6:26 PM EDT, Thu August 14, 2014
Tim Lynch says Pentagon's policy of doling out military weapons to police forces is misguided and dangerous.
updated 9:15 AM EDT, Fri August 15, 2014
S.E. Cupp says millennials want big ideas and rapid change; she talks to one of their number who serves in Congress
updated 7:57 PM EDT, Thu August 14, 2014
Dorothy Brown says the power structure is dominated by whites in a town that is 68% black. Elected officials who sat by silently as chaos erupted after Michael Brown shooting should be voted out of office
updated 7:49 AM EDT, Thu August 14, 2014
Bill Schmitz says the media and other adults should never explain suicide as a means of escaping pain. Robin Williams' tragic death offers a chance to educate about prevention
updated 11:05 AM EDT, Fri August 15, 2014
Nafees Syed says President Obama should renew the quest to eliminate bias in the criminal justice system
updated 4:24 PM EDT, Thu August 14, 2014
Eric Liu says what's unfolded in the Missouri town is a shocking violation of American constitutional rights and should be a wake-up call to all
updated 3:22 PM EDT, Wed August 13, 2014
Neal Gabler says Lauren Bacall, a talent in her own right, will be defined by her marriage with the great actor Humphrey Bogart
updated 6:56 AM EDT, Fri August 15, 2014
Bob Butler says the arrest of two journalists covering the Ferguson story is alarming
updated 4:35 PM EDT, Wed August 13, 2014
Mark O'Mara says we all need to work together to make sure the tension between police and African-Americans doesn't result in more tragedies
updated 4:06 PM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
Pepper Schwartz asks why young women are so entranced with Kardashian, who's putting together a 352-page book of selfies
updated 7:08 PM EDT, Wed August 13, 2014
Michael Friedman says depression does not discriminate, cannot be bargained with and shows no mercy.
updated 8:51 AM EDT, Tue August 12, 2014
Mary Allen says because of new research and her own therapy, she no longer carries around the fear of her mother, which had turned into a generalized fear of everything
updated 3:59 PM EDT, Tue August 12, 2014
Gilbert Gottfried says the comedian was most at home on the comedy club stage, where he was generous to his fellow stand-up performers
updated 4:54 PM EDT, Tue August 12, 2014
Iris Baez, whose son was killed by an illegal police chokehold, says there must be zero tolerance for police who fatally shoot or otherwise kill unarmed people such as Michael Brown
updated 8:46 AM EDT, Tue August 12, 2014
Maria Cardona says as he seeks a path to the presidency, the Kentucky Senator is running from his past stated positions. But voters are not stupid--and they know how to use the internet
updated 10:19 PM EDT, Tue August 12, 2014
Gene Seymour says the shock at the actor and comedian's death comes from its utter implausibility. For many of us over the last 40 years or so, Robin Williams was an irresistible force of nature that nothing could stop.
updated 3:51 PM EDT, Tue August 12, 2014
Soledad O'Brien says the story of two veterans told in a documentary airing on CNN shows the challenges resulting from post-traumatic stress
updated 11:25 AM EDT, Tue August 12, 2014
LZ Granderson says we must not surrender to apathy about the injustice faced by African Americans
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT