Rajoy

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the Spanish right-wing newspaper ABC reported yesterday that Gallardón plans to step down if the abortion bill is withdrawn, a development he apparently communicated himself to the newspaper.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

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!

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.

Tell Me Another…

On Friday,  the Spanish antiabortion draft bill, know unofficially as Gallardón’s Law, and officially as The organic law for the protection of the life of the conceived and the rights of the pregnant woman (whatever), will be taken to parliament.

Here’s looking at you, kid.

Thousands upon thousands of people have marched the streets not just in Spain but all over Europe, North and South America time and time again to protest this law since it was announced in December 2013. Prochoice campaigners worldwide have tirelessly told Gallardón and his government that women should be the ones to decide if and when they want to become mothers. Spanish citizens the length and the breadth of the country also responded to surveys saying they were not happy with the proposed abortion reform. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are just two of the international organisations that have publicly condemned the reform. But did Gallardón listen? Of course he didn’t. He replied by saying that “no insult” would deter him in his mission to protect the rights of the unborn.

And now an article in The Irish Times, citing government sources via the Spanish daily El País, claims that the Spanish government has bowed to the pressure of the protests by implementing changes in the bill that will allow women to terminate pregnancies when the foetus presents abnormalities. There may be some gullible enough to believe Rajoy’s government, firstly, cares one iota about what its citizens want, secondly, has genuinely listened to the voices of the people and, finally, is willing to negotiate the terms of the reform. Indeed, prochoice campaigners and activists saw this concession coming along for miles. It was always Gallardón’s strategy to present the bill in its most radical form and to then eliminate its more controversial aspects thus appeasing less radical Partido Popular voters and members within the party and fooling some into believing he’s not such a bad chap after all. With headlines such as this: Spain’s abortion legislation ‘changed after protests’, Gallardón’s ploy seems to be having its intended effect.

Gallardón: Public Enemy No. 1 of Spanish Women

The delusions of grandeur of Spain’s Justice Minister, Alberto Ruíz-Gallardón, never cease. This time Gallardón has been portraying himself as the defender of the rights of Spanish women. Yes, you read that correctly: the man who wants to implement a regressive anti-abortion draft bill, known as Gallardón’s law (la ley de Gallardón) in Spain claims this will be a positive step for women. Yesterday the Spanish daily El País revealed that the bill will finally be examined in congress in July. The opposition, Spain’s socialist party (PSOE), accused Rajoy’s conservative government of doing all it could to ensure discussion of the draft bill was delayed until after the European elections. Unsurprisingly, Gallardón vehemently denied the bill’s parliamentary process had been deliberately delayed and attempted to defuse criticism of his bill by turning the tables on the socialists. Indeed, the Justice Minister took pleasure in stating that Gallardón’s law is in effect the same as the Socialist abortion legislation in force from 1985 to 2010. “If this is a perverse law, your honor, I ask you: how is it possible that for 25 years it was in force in Spain and you did not protest it?” said Ruiz-Gallardón in reply to a question by the Socialist Party’s Vice Secretary General Elena Valenciano. “How is it possible that the last Socialist administration did not want to change it for eight years? And how is it possible that you did not even introduce a proposal for change in your last campaign platform?”

The Saviour of Spanish Women

Gallardón went even further when he accused the Socialist Party of discriminating against women by considering them “criminals, as opposed to victims” since under the 1985 and 2010 Socialist abortion laws, women could face prison sentences. He concluded that the draft bill will have a positive gender impact as it will remove financial penalties and prison sentences for women who abort. Elena Valenciano called Gallardón “public enemy no 1 when it comes to Spanish women’s freedom” during yet another face-off with the Justice Minister in parliament in which she also claimed Gallardón was attempting to curry favour with the more conservative faction of his voters and party at the expense of women’s reproductive freedom.

Socialist MP Eduardo Madina spoke for the nation when he told Gallardón: “Do not listen to your party, listen to the Spanish people and tell us that your law will be no more“.