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Justice Minister Gallardón Not Backing Down

Spanish media was awash this weekend with articles stating that the country’s antiabortion draft bill had been shelved. Even The Guardian caught wind of the news, despite the fact that the Spanish abortion bill has been largely conspicuous by its absence in British media since the proposed legislation was announced in December 2013. For a man as arrogant as the Spanish Justice Minister, Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón, whose personal mission (and obsession) was the abortion reform, it must have been a humiliating experience. Prochoice and feminist organisations in Spain and abroad celebrated the news on Twitter and Facebook.

And then amid the celebrations, sources from within the Spanish Justice Ministry reported being absolutely unaware of any annulment of the bill. “We are seeking the maximum consensus within the party and finalising the details of the final draft”, a Justice spokesperson confidently stated.

Gallardón: undermined by Rajoy and his own party

Spanish Justice Minister, Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón

It seems government sources had leaked Prime Minister Rajoy’s intention to halt the bill’s process, a decision that was made without consulting the Justice Minister. Rajoy is uneasy about the bill’s unpopularity and does not want it affecting the Popular Party’s upcoming electoral campaign. It is clear that Gallardón has been seriously undermined by  Rajoy and other key members within his own party. Indeed, the Spanish right-wing newspaper ABC reported yesterday that Gallardón plans to step down if the abortion bill is withdrawn, a development he apparently communicated himself to the newspaper. ABC then updated its article by stating that Gallardón would make the decision as regards to his political career in a week. Moreover, just a few hours ago, the Spanish daily El Mundo reported Gallardón’s intention to discuss the abortion reform next week as he is currently very busy with Catalonia’s “sovereignty” issues.

Isolated within his own party and seriously undermined by the Prime Minister, Gallardón is scrambling to figure out how to save face. Watch this space to follow the latest developments and see what moves are the next he makes.

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Migrant X is Not a Vessel: My Belly is Mine at the Irish Embassy

My Belly is Mine attended the protest yesterday evening outside the Irish Embassy in London. The protest was co-organized by Speaking of I.M.E.L.D.A. and Abortion Rights East London to demonstrate against the barbaric treatment at the hands of the Irish Government of the woman known as Migrant X, a non-Irish citizen who was pregnant as a consequence of rape. According to reports, the woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons,  sought an abortion early this summer under a clause in the new Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act, saying that she was suicidal.

The case was referred to a panel of three experts — an obstetrician and two psychiatrists. The psychiatrists determined that Migrant X had suicidal thoughts, but the obstetrician overruled their decision by stating the pregnancy was viable. The unnamed woman, who is only 18, went on hunger strike and was eventually forced to give birth via a caesarean section.

My Belly is Mine attended in solidarity with the women of Ireland and performed alongside activists Speaking of I.M.E.L.D.A.

Speakers at the protest included: Jo Tacon from Abortion Rights East London, Mara Clarke from Abortion Support Network, Ann Rossiter from Speaking of I.M.E.L.D.A., Mairead Enright from Lawyers for Choice, and Cristina Ríos from My Belly is Mine. Cristina spoke of the cooperation between Irish and Spanish prochoice activists in London historically and at present. Indeed, there was a strong presence of Spanish women in the crowd, mostly from the Spanish Women’s Assembly.

My Belly is Mine has signed the statement by Reproductive Health Matters, calling on the Irish Government to repeal the 8th Amendment and to replace the Protection of Life in Pregnancy Act with a law that prioritises women’s health and rights.

Here are some photos by Luca Neve and by Heather Blockey of the protest. More photos and a video to come.

Doctors for Choice express shock and outrage at ordeal of woman denied an abortion

My Belly is Mine will be attending the protest at the Irish Embassy in London on Wednesday, 20 of August at 6pm. Here is the link to the event, created by Abortion Rights East London: https://www.facebook.com/events/280865805439494/?ref_newsfeed_story_type=regular

Doctors for Choice Ireland

While acknowledging the incomplete and uncertain facts in this tragic case, Doctors for Choice believe certain urgent questions arise that need to be addressed:

1 Why was the woman involved denied access to abortion?
2 Was she faciltated to avail of a panel assessment and an appeal?
3 Did the panel certify eligibility? If not why no appeal? If so why was abortion not carried out? Was there a delay in certifying eligibilty in order for the gestation to exceed 24 weeks?
4 Why was her consent to an abortion and refusal to consent to a cesarean not vindicated by HSE or courts?
5 On what grounds was an hydration order made?’

These questions raise very disturbing possibilities for the abuse of a vulnerable adult. There seem to have been reasonable grounds for the HSE to suspect that neglect of this young woman’s need to access an abortion would result in significant…

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Spanish Women in Limbo Over Abortion Law

“No insult will deter me from my commitment to protect the rights of the unborn”, Spanish Justice Minister Alberto Ruíz-Gallardón defiantly stated in February this year. This statement came two months after the Spanish Government announced its proposal to amend the country’s current abortion law in order to implement an almost blanket ban on pregnancy terminations. Despite continual protests against the bill organized by feminist and prochoice organizations in major Spanish cities and towns, manifestos defending a woman’s right to choose, condemnation by human rights organizations such as Amnesty International, and surveys expressing the Spanish population’s unhappiness with the proposed antiabortion law, Gallardón remained steadfast in his determination to pass the regressive draft bill.

Spanish Justice Minister, Albert Ruíz-Gallardón

An Unpopular Bill

However, as reported on this blog, the Spanish Cabinet has had at least four clear opportunities to present the bill in parliament for debate and voting. On these four occasions (the 25th of June, the 1st and 8th of July and the 1st of August) the bill was conspicuous by its absence in Cabinet meetings. Gallardón claimed the delay was caused by the Presidency and Vice-presidency’s office, which is responsible for setting the Cabinet’s agenda. Spanish media, on the other hand, speculated members within Gallardón’s own party, the conservative ruling People’s Party (Partido Popular), were stalling the bill due to an unwillingness to endanger their own political careers on such controversial legislation.

Toying with the Rights of Women in Spain

The Spanish Government’s next Cabinet meeting is Friday 29th of August, the first after the summer recess. Political analysts explain that the bill must be passed on this date or early September to avoid it coinciding with the Popular Party‘s electoral campaign in the upcoming autonomic and municipal elections in May 2015. Otherwise the bill will most definitely be postponed until the general election in November 2015. Women in Spain, feminist and prochoice organizations remain hopeful yet vigilant. The Madrid Feminist Assembly stated it was tired of the Government toying with the rights of women and has organised a national protest for the 28th of September, the global day for action for access to safe and legal abortion. My Belly is Mine will be supporting this action alongside other prochoice organizations in an event in London, soon to be announced.

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!

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.

Federica Montseny Network: Beginnings

In May 2014, Feminismos 15M Berlin, a Spanish feminist collective based in Berlin, and part of the 15M Movement of young Spanish exiles abroad, contacted all of its counterparts throughout Europe. They expressed the importance and aim of setting up a European support network for women in Spain, who may be forced to travel abroad for abortion, once the antiabortion law in Spain has been passed. Feminismos 15M Berlin have named the network after Federica Montseny (1905-94), a Spanish intellectual and anarchist and one of the first women in Europe to become a cabinet minister when she was appointed as Health Minister in 1936. Montseny was also renowned for her prochoice legislations.

Prochoice legislator and one of the first women in Europe to be appointed as a cabinet minister, Federica Montseny

Feminismos 15M Berlin pointed out that London is a key city in this network: an obvious destination, not only due to its proximity, the amount of low cost flights from Spain to the British capital, or the fact that English is a language most Spaniards have some familiarity with but also: London was a notorious destination for Spanish women in the 70s and 80s seeking terminations.

Front page of the very first edition of El País Magazine (1976), featuring the report “Abortion in London”

The Spanish Women’s Assembly in London has taken on the responsibility of creating the corresponding support network in the British capital for women in Spain who are forced to travel for an abortion. It is an important responsibility and one that they are taking very seriously. They have already met with a representative of Abortion Support Network to learn more about their working model and how this charity supports the almost 5000 women a year who travel to the UK from Ireland for terminations.

The Spanish Women’s Assembly are in the phase of early planning and fundraising for the network. And we will be documenting the history of the network on this blog. Unlike the fake travel agency offering “abortion packages” to London, the Federica Montseny Network is not a hoax. It exemplifies the sad reality that Spanish women will face if Gallardón’s antiabortion law is passed in Spain.

bell hooks on abortion

“If feminism is a movement to end sexist oppression, and depriving females of reproductive rights is a form of sexist oppression, then one cannot be anti-choice and be feminist. A woman can insist she would never choose to have an abortion while affirming her support of the right of women to choose and still be an advocate of feminist politics. She cannot be anti-abortion and an advocate of feminism.”

bell hooks, Feminism is for everybody: passionate politics

Gallardón backtracks (or rather, is told to backtrack)

Last Friday we protested at the Spanish Embassy in London against the abortion bill.  The date was June 27th and we chose that day to coincide with a multitude o f protests in Spain and abroad, taking the lead from the Feminist Federation in Madrid. June 27th was the day that the antiabortion bill was to begin its parliamentary process. On the day of the protest, we were informed the bill’s entry to parliament had been delayed a week. The bill’s progress to parliament had been postponed by the government to specifically coincide with the foul antichoice conference held in the Spanish capital today and tomorrow. Despite this unexpected announcement, protests worldwide went ahead, as did ours, last Friday, and more demos are scheduled in Spain this week and elsewhere to overlap with the antiabortion conference. We ourselves have something special planned in London for today and tomorrow but more about that later…

Gallardón’s lack of attendance at the Madrid antichoice conference is major coup for prochoice campaigners

Gallardón was scheduled to attend the antichoice conference to bang on about how great his bill is. But to everyone’s surprise Gallardón has pulled out at the very last minute from programme. The reason being, if we are to believe his spokesperson, that official reports on the draft bill are still pending and therefore Gallardón has not had time to edit the last draft and determine its final details. The Minister is apparently unwilling to do a presentation on an unsettled bill in front of his antichoice cronies.

Gallardón develops stage fright.

Gallardón is not exactly known for his self-doubt, in fact, he is known for quite the opposite as last year has shown: he has defiantly clung to his bill, unperturbed in the face of relentless criticism, steadfast in his belief that his law is a morally correct one. We have to presume that Gallardón’s present hesitancy is due to something other than a crisis of confidence. The Spanish PM, Mariano Rajoy, forever the coward, prefers controversial issues to be resolved as quietly as possible. Well, this was never going to happen, what with socialists in the lower house deliberately scheduling a prochoice convention to go head to head with the antichoice convention. Indeed, Spanish media had their tents pitched up and their popcorn ready for the face off. Gallardón’s sudden withdrawal from the antichoice meeting has, as one newspaper put it, clearly “deflated the soufflé”.

Keep fighting, keep spreading the word

But what does this mean for us? It means that we keep fighting: as the bill’s controversy continues to gain international attention, the Spanish government’s embarrassment over this barbaric law grows, whilst Rajoy and other members of the Partido Popular get ever more uncomfortable and impatient with Alberto’s political gambling. Gallardón’s lack of attendance at the Madrid antichoice conference is therefore a major coup for prochoice campaigners. Don’t think that little retweet or your presence at a demo don’t count, because they do. Help Spanish women defeat the bill: spread the word about My Belly is Mine and join the campaign!

 

Summer Campaign 2014

My Belly is Mine has teamed up with the Women’s Assembly from the London 15M Movement and Irish prochoice activists Speaking of I.M.E.L.D.A to run a summer long campaign against the Spanish antiabortion law.

Members of the Spanish Women's Assembly

Members of the Spanish Women’s Assembly

IMELDA

Speaking of I.M.E.L.D.A. in red at St Patrick’s day celebrations in London

We will be popping up unexpectedly throughout London during the upcoming months to raise awareness of this issue. If you are keen to participate in some easy, safe and peaceful prochoice performances in London this summer, you can email us at mybellyismine@gmail.com.

My Belly is Mine campaigners

My Belly is Mine campaigners