Month: July 2014

Spot the Difference: Spain’s Antiabortion Bill

The numbers speak for themselves: in 1985, 17,688 abortions were performed on Spanish women in Britain. Many of these women travelled to London for the procedure. The costs were prohibitive. So what of the women that were left behind? Women without the financial means, the social networks…the wherewithal to allow them to travel to Britain? What of the women and children who had irregular migratory status, the women and girls who were victims of rape, of domestic abuse? Where did they go when abortion was illegal in Spain?

Front page of El País Magazine (1976), with a report on travelling to London for an abortion.

This is a horrifying situation in which to find oneself. And it is a situation that will be repeated if the current antiabortion bill is passed as law in Spain. Human rights organisation Amnesty International has repeatedly condemned the bill. Amnesty has stated the bill is discriminatory, retrogressive and will violate the human rights of women and girls and put their lives at risk. The organisation says:

If enacted, the Spanish draft bill will result in an increase in the number of women and girls who resort to illegal, unsafe and clandestine procedures, risking their health and lives. The bill proposes humiliating and unrealistic barriers for women and girls to overcome before they can access a legal and safe abortion.

The UK and other EU countries will most likely face a surge of Spanish women seeking abortion if the procedure is outlawed in their own country. Remember: restrictive abortion laws do not equal fewer abortions; on the contrary, when abortion is illegal, women die or they flee elsewhere. The problem is simply hidden, never resolved.

final english2

Figures taken from Ireland’s Hidden Diaspora by Ann Rossiter.

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Spain’s Antiabortion Law: Hope on the Horizon

A tiny shred of hope has appeared on the horizon for women and prochoice campaigners battling against the draconian antiabortion bill in Spain. The main force behind the bill, Justice Minister Alberto Ruíz-Gallardón, appears to be increasingly isolated in his determination to pass the bill as law.

The bill has suffered a number of unexplained delays in its parliamentary process and is yet to appear on the Cabinet’s agenda. Indeed, at the end of June, the draft bill was ready for its presentation in parliament: reviewed by all the consultational bodies and having gone through its final revisions, the bill’s presentation was initially scheduled for the 27th of June but was postponed for a week. The bill has been postponed a further two times since then.

Spanish Justice Minister Alberto Ruíz-Gallardón with the Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría and Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

Sources within Gallardón’s own political party, the rightwing Partido Popular, recently claimed that some party members are concerned with the bill’s unpopularity and have pledged to stall it as much as they can. In an attempt to save face, Gallardón was adamant the Ministry of Justice would not allow the draft bill to be shelved. ‘The legislative agenda is not determined by individual departments but rather by the Presidency and Vice-presidency’s office which coordinates all the different ministries.’ stated Gallardón, placing the responsibility for the delays onto Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and the Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría.

Gallardón neither confirmed nor denied that the law would be discussed at today’s cabinet meeting, although it seems unlikely this will be case. The 1st of August remains the only date to pass the law and as of yet there is no indication the bill is scheduled for discussion that day either.

Motherhood is a right, not an obligation.

Motherhood is a right, not an obligation.

These latest developments are undoubtedly positive ones for women in Spain. Time is running out for the Partido Popular:  in order to meet the legislative deadlines in 2014 and thus avoid the Spanish electoral campaign in 2015, this very controversial bill needs to be presented in parliament before September if it is to become law. Prochoice campaigners in Spain and beyond cannot afford to rest on their laurels: on the contrary, they must increase the pressure to ensure the bill is stopped in its tracks in the coming months.

The Freedom Train

On the first of February this year, tens of thousands of people filled the streets of Madrid. They congregated to protest against the regressive antiabortion reform, proposed in December by the Spanish conservative government. Protesters came, not only from all over Spain, but from different parts of the world too. One group of women travelled by train to the Spanish capital from the Asturian city of Gijón, in the North of Spain. These women were responsible for the protest and gave it its name: The Freedom Train (El Tren de la libertad).

Protest against Spain’s antiabortion law in Madrid, 1 February 2014

The Asturian female collectives, Barredos Women for Equality (Mujeres por la Igualdad de Barredos) and The GodmothersFeminist Salon (Tertulia Feminista Les Comadres) were the women who decided one day to charter a train to Atocha station in Madrid. Their aim was to hand in a statement to the Spanish Parliament, asking for the antiabortion draft bill to be withdrawn. The statement was called I decide (Yo decido) and was addressed to the parliamentarians, to the Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, the Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón, and the Minister for Equality, Ana Mato.

Well-wishers wave goodbye to the women travelling to Madrid to protest against the proposed antiabortion legislation.

Spanish women travelling down to Madrid on ‘The Freedom Train’.

In Madrid, the Godmothers and Barredos Women were accompanied by a multitude of other feminist organisations, politicians, trade unions, supporters and members of the public. They all walked together to the Spanish Parliament, where they handed in their petition.

The women head towards the Spanish Parliament to hand in their petition, with the crowd behind them.

My Belly is Mine decided to echo the protests in Madrid via a symbolic train 2 Madrid journey. We wanted to show our support to protesters in Spain and raise awareness of the issue in the UK. We boarded a train in London at Charing Cross Station to Waterloo East and we proceeded to tie hangers -one of the symbols of illegal abortion- onto the Southbank’s iconic Hungerford Bridge.

A My Belly is Mine supporter protesting on 1 Feb 2014 against the Spanish antiabortion law

A My Belly is Mine supporter protesting on 1 Feb 2014 against the Spanish antiabortion law

Fellow Spanish feminist collective These Hysterical Women also protested in Edinburgh the same day. These Hysterical Women appear in the documentary of the protests which was filmed exclusively by Spanish female filmakers and is now available to watch free and online under the name Yo decido: El Tren de la libertad.

Protest in Edinburgh on the 1st of February in support of ‘The Freedom Train.’

“Because it’s my choice, I am free, and I live in a democracy, I demand from the government, any government, that it make laws that promote moral autonomy, preserve freedom of conscience, and guarantee plurality and diversity.

Because it’s my choice, I am free, and I live in a democracy, I demand the continuity of the current Law of Sexual and Reproductive Health and pregnancy termination to promote the moral autonomy, to preserve the freedom of conscience, and to guarantee the plurality and diversity of all women.”

My Belly is Mine. I decide!

Spanish Justice Minister: “Abortion law will go through this summer”

Spain’s controversial antiabortion draft bill will be passed as law this summer, according to the Spanish Justice Minister, Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón. “I’m able to say that the law will be passed before the end of the summer”, Gallardón stated.

The draft bill, proposed by Spain’s conservative ruling party -the Partido Popular, was initially scheduled to be debated in parliament on the 27th of June. It was postponed twice and it now seems unlikely it will be debated, as was expected, on the 1st of August. “Summer ends in September”, Gallardón added, implying that the draft bill may be on the agenda of the next cabinet meeting on the 29th of August.

“Don’t stop breeding” by Mónica López Garbayo

However, these delays are good news for prochoice campaigners: the longer the parliamentary process is drawn out, the less probable it is the bill will be approved. 2015 is election year in Spain and the regional leaders and mayors are unwilling to risk their political careers on this unpopular bill. Only yesterday, prior to a meeting at the Ministry of Health, government representatives from Asturias, Andalusia, the Basque Country, the Canary Islands and Catalonia renewed demands for the bill’s withdrawal.

My Belly is Mine believes prochoice groups must keep up the pressure to ensure the bill is postponed for as long as possible. Indeed, despite confident press statements, Gallardón’s (almost obsessive) determination in passing one of the most restrictive laws of Spain’s democracy is leaving him increasingly isolated.

Prochoice people: Keep up the fight!

My Belly is Mine in the Spanish Media

Spanish daily El Mundo reported last week on the new abortion support network Red Federica Montseny set up in London by Spanish feminists. The network will assist those women in Spain affected by the antiabortion leglislation which may be passed this summer.

My Belly is Mine campaigner Amanda Lundstedt appears in the article’s main photograph, which was taken during our London Underground protests.

Amanda

You can find the article here.

Our joint protests in the London Underground with the Spanish Women’s Assembly also appeared in the evening news last night by broadcaster La Sexta. Isabel Ros López, an active member of the Spanish Women’s Abortion Support Group  (SWASG) in London in the 80s and Vicky Barambones, a current member of the new network Federica Montseny, are both interviewed in this news item. Go to minute 29.52 for the report.

My Belly is Mine in the Spanish Press

El Ibérico is a fortnightly Spanish newspaper edited in the British capital. It featured Amanda Lundstedt, singer, activist and My Belly is Mine campaigner on the front page of today’s edition.

Amanda Lundstedt

Amanda Lundstedt, My Belly is Mine campaigner, on the front page of ‘El Ibérico’.

The picture was taken during our recent London underground protests against Gallardón’s antiabortion law, organised in conjunction with the Spanish Women’s Assembly. These protests feature in an article in El Ibérico that discusses the new abortion support network Red Federica Montseny set up in London by the Women’s Assembly. You can read more about the RFM network here.

New Abortion Support Group for Spanish Women in London

Spanish feminists are already setting up a support network in London for women affected by the notorious antiabortion law likely to be passed in Spain in August. The Spanish Women’s Assembly is a women only subgroup of the 15M Movement in London. They launched a mission statement this morning which details the ethics and goals of this support network, made up of women from the Assembly and volunteers. This support group is still in the early stages of planning but aims to provide direct assistance to women travelling to the UK for abortion.

The network is to be known as Red Federica Montseny in honour of the Spanish intellectual, anarchist and prochoice legislator Federica Montseny (1905-94), one of the first women in Europe to hold a position as a Cabinet Minister. The idea originally sprang from Feminismos, the Berlin based Women’s Assembly, which is also part of the 15M Movement. The network is composed of different ‘nodos’ (branches) such as Brussels, Lisbon, Paris, Vienna, Bordeaux and Stuttgart.

Federica Montseny

The British capital, however, will probably be the main destination for Spanish women seeking terminations when the antiabortion legislation is in effect. With this in mind, the London branch of the RFM is also to be known as SWASG 2.0 as a tribute to the support work carried out by Spanish women in this city in the 1980s when abortion was illegal in Spain.

Protests in Spain in the 1980s against the criminalisation of abortion.

The network is therefore also understood as a political statement that draws attention to the regressive nature of Gallardón’s antiabortion law and calls for women to be in full control of their bodies and reproductive choices.

My Belly is Mine in the North London Star

Mireia and Cristina, two of My Belly is Mine campaigners, met with Jim Jepps from the North London Star. Jim wanted to find out more about the campaign and the political activism of young Spanish migrants in the British capital. You can read the article here.

Mireia and Cristina from My Belly is Mine

Antiabortion Draft Bill to be Approved in Summer

The antiabortion draft bill, known as Gallardón’s law, has eventually been revised and edited by the Ministry of Justice and is now ready to be submitted to the Spanish parliament, according to a report by Europa Press. The text is awaiting the approval of the Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, after which it will be passed to the Cabinet.

As we reported on this blog, the draft bill had been unexpectedly postponed earlier this month. The bill was due to be ratified twice during the first half of July. The first attempt on the 4th of July was designed to coincide with an antichoice conference in Madrid. Justice Minister Gallardón’s surprising last-minute absence from the conference and the delay to which the bill was subjected for no apparent reason, led some party members to believe that the law would not be passed.

Spanish Justice Minister, Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón

The bill’s controversy amongst the Spanish population is such that it is viewed as a serious obstacle in the PP’s electoral campaign for the next general election in 2015 and one of the main reasons the bill should be postponed until well after the 2015 pre-campaign. The bill has prompted discord even within the ranks of the PP (Partido Popular-Spain’s conservative ruling party) itself.

According to Europa Press, sources within the PP have stated that they were actively involved in the bill’s delay in July and would prefer its presentation in parliament to be postponed for as long as possible. They will attempt to drag out the bill’s parliamentary process as much as they can.

An electoral pledge

On the other hand, the antiabortion draft bill was one of the PP’s electoral pledges and it has many supporters within the party. Some members propose an even more extreme version of the draft law which would mean abortion being banned even in cases of rape or severe foetal deformity. Whilst this radical group within the party is willing to concede that such a bill would never be approved and they accept the draft law in its current state, they have however vouched to rebel against party leaders if Gallardón’s bill is not ratified at some point.

Bill to be approved day before summer recess

Following the bill’s failure to reach parliament on both the 4th and 11th of July, other sources have assured the bill will be with the Cabinet before the end of the month. The 1st of August is touted as the preferred date, as it will be the last Cabinet meeting before summer recess and therefore a “perfect day” to ratify the bill as Spain will predominantly be on holiday.

London Underground Protest Video: Free to Decide

Here’s the video for the joint protest organised by My Belly is Mine and the Spanish Women’s Assembly on the 3rd and 4th of July to coincide with an antichoice conference hosted in Madrid. We demand the antiabortion draft bill be withdrawn and that women be free to decide.

Thanks to David from 15M London Assembly for such a great job with the filming!