Our Summer Campaign Continues…

Yesterday, we protested in central London once more against the barbaric antiabortion law proposed by the Spanish government. The action was jointly organized by My Belly is Mine, the Spanish Women’s Assembly and Irish prochoice activists Speaking of I.M.E.L.D.A. and took place beside one of London’s most iconic bridges, Tower Bridge, opposite the Tower of London.

Yesterday’s action is the fourth co-organized by Spanish, Irish and British activists as part of an intense summer campaign to protest against the Spanish antiabortion draft bill from London. Previously, we protested during the British Spanish Society’s summer reception at the Spanish Embassy in Belgravia, on the 27th of June  -again in front of the Spanish Embassy, and in the London Underground.

Our protests will continue until the law is withdrawn.

Photography: Elisa and Andrea (Spanish Women’s Assembly)

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Nuestra campaña de verano continúa…

Ayer protestamos de nuevo en pleno centro de Londres contra el anteproyecto de Gallardón. La protesta, realizada conjuntamente por la Asamblea de mujeres del 15M de Londres, las activistas irlandesas Speaking of I.M.E.L.D.A. y My Belly is Mine, se desarrolló al lado de uno de los puentes más emblemáticos de la ciudad, el Puente de la Torre (Tower Bridge), un puente levadizo que cruza el río Támesis y que se sitúa cerca de la Torre de Londres, la que le da su nombre.

Esta cuarta acción es la última de una intensa campaña veraniega organizada conjuntamente por activistas españolas, irlandesas y británicas para protestar en contra de la ley Gallardón desde la capital británica. Previamente nos manifestamos ante la embajada española en Londres durante la fiesta de la Asociación hispano-británica, el 27 de junio, y en el metro de Londres.

Las protestas continuarán hasta la retirada del anteproyecto.

Fotografías: Elisa y Andrea (Asamblea de mujeres)

Repeating Histories: Irish and Spanish Prochoice Activism in London in the 80s and Now (VIDEO)

British, Spanish and Irish feminist prochoice collectives My Belly is Mine, the Spanish Women’s Assembly and Speaking of I.M.E.L.D.A. will perform a protest action on the 2nd of August in central London to raise awareness of the Spanish anti-abortion bill, known as Gallardón’s law. The bill is soon to be presented in the Spanish Parliament. The action will also officially launch the new Spanish Women’s Abortion Support Group (SWASG 2.0), which aims to provide practical assistance for Spanish women travelling abroad to terminate pregnancies, should the bill be passed. This support group is the London branch of the International Federica Montseny Network, an initiative developed by Spanish feminists in Berlin.

Abortion Support Groups in London the 80s

This is not the first time a support group such as SWASG 2.0 has operated in London. Abortion Support Network currently helps many women from Ireland to have abortions in the UK each year. Abortion has never been decriminalised in the Irish Republic, whilst in Spain, abortion on request up till 14 weeks has only been available since 2010 and is now under threat by the antiabortion bill. In the early 80s, Ann Rossiter and Isabel Ros López, Irish and Spanish activists, both helped to set up the Irish Women’s Abortion Support Group (IWASG) and the Spanish Women’s Abortion Support Group (SWASG) respectively. In 1982, a staggering 21,000 women came from Spain to have abortions in England; over 8000 women came from Ireland, approximately 6000 of them from the Republic and the other 2000 from the six counties.

Prochoice campaigners now have the opportunity to hear Ann and Isabel explain why and how they set up the Irish and Spanish abortion support groups. The film Repeating Histories, produced by My Belly is Mine, Speaking of I.M.E.L.D.A and the London Irish Feminist Network (LIFN), features Ann and Isabel in conversation at The Feminist Library. Ann remembers:

“With all these women coming… we wondered what in the hell we could do. And it’s important to say that this was very small scale. By today’s standards, things were quite primitive.”

In the film, Ann and Isabel share their experiences of volunteering in both support groups: they describe the organisation and the day to day of these support operations, how they managed to procure special deals for the women at clinics and raise funds; they tell too of the international spirit of cooperation of prochoice activists at that time. Ann also warns of the difficult decisions and financial costs Spanish women will have to bear if Gallardón’s antiabortion law is passed.

Repeating Histories: A New Wave of Irish and Spanish Prochoice Activism in London

Ann and Isabel often collaborate with Speaking of I.M.E.L.D.A. and My Belly is Mine in prochoice actions. Isabel is also an advisor to SWASG 2.o.  In fact, the name SWASG 2.o was chosen as a tribute to the work of Isabel and her colleagues. Not only national links are forged with this current wave of Irish and Spanish prochoice activism in the British capital, but also intergenerational ones.

For the 2 minute trailer of Repeating Histories, click here.

For the version with Spanish subtitles, click here.

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.

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.