Alberto Ruíz-Gallardón

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the Spanish right-wing newspaper ABC reported yesterday that Gallardón plans to step down if the abortion bill is withdrawn, a development he apparently communicated himself to the newspaper.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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A Great Victory for Prochoice Activism

We did it! When My Belly is Mine was formed at the very beginning of this year, our objective was to stop the Spanish antiabortion draft bill proposed by the conservative Popular Party (also known as the People’s Party) from being presented in parliament. If enacted, this reform would have taken Spain back 30 years in terms of reproductive rights. We worked hard to raise awareness of this threat. We echoed the major demos in Spain, alongside other protesters in European capitals and in cities across the world. Indeed, we were just one of the many many voices in Spain and abroad that clamoured against the bill. The Spanish press finally reported this weekend that the proposed abortion reform has been shelved due to a lack of consensus within the party. Congratulations and thanks to every single person who took to the streets and shouted out against the bill! We won!

The Freedom Train protests in Madrid on the 1 Feb. My Belly is Mine echoed this protest in London.

“A discriminatory and regressive bill”

The Spanish Council of Ministers adopted the bill, known as “the organic law for the protection of the life of the conceived and the rights of the pregnant woman” on the 20th of December 2013. The bill ensured abortion was illegal in most cases. In fact, the initial draft of the bill even suggested banning abortion in cases of fetal malformation. This turned out to be one of the most controversial aspects of the bill, creating disagreement even within the ranks of the People’s Party, the conservative party with a majority in government that was proposing the reform. The human rights organisation Amnesty International called the bill “discriminatory and regressive” and pointed out that it “proposes humiliating and unrealistic barriers for women and girls to overcome before they can access a legal and safe abortion.”

“Nobody can force motherhood upon a woman”

“The abortion law has been aborted” Illustration by Jesús AG

As reported on this blog, the Spanish Justice Minister Gallardón was the main force behind this regressive bill, which was to be known unofficially as Gallardón’s Law. Gallardón repeatedly claimed to have Prime Minister Rajoy’s total support for the bill. It was no surprise that the political left in Spain came together to vehemently oppose the draft bill, yet it would be his own party and Rajoy that would bring about the Justice Minister’s undoing. Privately Gallardón garnered support from party members yet in public few supported him. The regional leader José Antonio Monago was the first to criticise the bill by stating “nobody can force motherhood upon a woman”. As protests mounted and the unpopularity of the bill became evident, other regional leaders began to fear for their own political careers.

Dissent Behind the Scenes

Gallardón continued to defend his reform as he became increasingly isolated within his own political party. Throughout the summer, the presentation of the bill in parliament was continually postponed. Gallardón talked of busy schedules and conflicting agendas. The Spanish press, however, surmised the bill was being stalled behind the scenes. Protests continued, maintaining the pressure. My Belly is Mine organised an intense summer campaign in conjunction with Speaking of I.M.E.L.D.A and the 15M Spanish Women’s Assembly: we protested on two occasions outside the Spanish Embassy, once in the London Underground and once outside City Hall.

The Spanish Women's Assembly at a recent joint protest.

The Spanish Women’s Assembly at a recent joint protest.

The American author and activist Alice Walker said that activism was the rent she paid for living on the planet. Going to a protest, taking a banner, signing a petition, shouting out…this does all make a difference: always make your voice heard!

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.

La historia se repite: Activismo pro-elección irlandés y español en Londres en los años 80 y ahora (VIDEO)

Feministas británicas, españolas e irlandesas de los colectivos pro-elección My Belly is Mine, Asamblea de mujeres y Speaking of I.M.E.L.D.A., llevaron a cabo una acción de protesta el 2 de agosto en el centro de Londres, para dar a conocer el proyecto de ley anti-aborto en España, conocido como ‘ley de Gallardón’. El proyecto de ley será pronto presentado en el Congreso español. La acción también supuso la presentación oficial del nuevo grupo Spanish Women’s Abortion Support Group (SWASG 2.0), que tiene como objetivo proporcionar apoyo en la práctica a las mujeres que viajen desde el Estado Español a Londres para interrumpir su embarazo si el proyecto de ley pasase. Este grupo de apoyo es el Nodo Londres de la Red Internacional Federica Montseny, iniciativa desarrollada por las feministas españolas en Berlín.

Grupos de apoyo al aborto en Londres en los años 80

Ésta no es la primera vez que un grupo de apoyo como SWASG 2.0 ha existido en Londres. Abortion Support Network actualmente ayuda a miles de mujeres al año procedentes de Irlanda a practicarse abortos en el Reino Unido. El aborto nunca ha sido despenalizado en la República de Irlanda, mientras que en España, el acceso al aborto está disponible desde 2010 y ahora se encuentra bajo amenaza por el proyecto de ley contra el aborto. A principios de los años 80, Ann Rossiter e Isabel Ros López, activistas irlandesa y española, ayudaron a establecer en la capital británica el Irish Women’s Abortion Support Group (IWASG) y el Spanish Women’s Abortion Support Group (SWASG) respectivamente. En 1982, 21.000 mujeres vinieron de España a tener abortos en Inglaterra, y más de 8.000 mujeres de Irlanda -de las que 6.000 procedían de la República y 2.000 de Irlanda del Norte.

Las actuales defensoras pro-elección tienen ahora la oportunidad de escuchar a Ann e Isabel explicar el por qué y cómo se configuraron los grupos de apoyo al aborto irlandés y español. En esta película, La historia se repite, producida por My Belly is Mine, Speaking of I.M.E.L.D.A. y la London Irish Feminist Network (LIFN), entrevistamos a Ann e Isabel en La Biblioteca Feminista (Londres). Ann recuerda:

“Con todas estas mujeres llegando … nos preguntábamos qué demonios podríamos hacer. Y es importante decir que esto era a muy pequeña escala. Según los estándares de hoy en día, las cosas eran bastante primitivas.”

Ann e Isabel comparten sus experiencias como voluntarias en ambos grupos de apoyo: describen la organización y el día a día de estas actividades de apoyo, cómo se las arreglaron para obtener acuerdos especiales para las mujeres en las clínicas y recaudar fondos y describen el espíritu de cooperación internacional de las activistas pro-elección en aquel momento. Ann también pone la alerta sobre las decisiones difíciles y los costos financieros que las mujeres españolas tendrán que soportar si se aprueba la ley antiaborto de Gallardón.

La historia se repite: una nueva ola de activismo pro-elección irlandés y español en Londres

Ann e Isabel a menudo colaboran con Speaking of I.M.E.L.D.A. y My Belly is Mine en las acciones pro-elección. Isabel también asesora a SWASG 2.0. De hecho, el nombre de SWASG 2.0 fue elegido como un homenaje a la labor de Isabel y sus colegas. No sólo se forjan conexiones nacionales en esta actual ola de activismo pro-elección irlandés y español en la capital británica, sino también intergeneracionales.

Traducción: Vicky Barambones (Asamblea de mujeres)

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)

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!