The reform of the abortion law in which the Ministry of Equality is immersed advances. This was stated this Wednesday by Minister Irene Montero, whose department has been working for several months on the proposal with which it intends to “shield” access to this right in public health. “Voluntarily interrupting pregnancy is going to be guaranteed in all public hospitals,” Montero stated in the Equality Commission of Congress. In her appearance, the minister outlined some of the fundamental lines of the text, which is not yet public and must be negotiated within the Government before being approved by the Council of Ministers.
Thousands of women are forced each year to travel to other provinces to abort
Although Montero has recognized “the important progress” that the norm entailed in 2010 and has thanked the PSOE for its approval, he has also defended the need to update it twelve years later in the face of the “obstacles” that “still hinder full access” to these rights. Currently there are entire hospitals that claim conscientious objection not to perform interventions, even in those cases in which there is a risk to life. And there are provinces where there is no way to abort because there are no clinics with which to arrange the service, which is the prevailing model in Spain. This means that thousands of women must move every year to exercise their right.
Given this, the ministry wants to “shield” access to abortion in public health by regulating the conscientious objection of professionals in the style of the registry already established by the Euthanasia Law. The objective is that in all hospitals there are gynecologists and professionals willing to carry out the intervention and there are clear figures on how many are objectors and how many are not with the idea of starting the service: “We will scrupulously respect the right to conscientious objection and we will make it scrupulously compatible with the right of women to decide on their own bodies”, the minister assured.
According to his speech, it will be the women who choose the method of interruption (pharmacological or instrumental), but he has not specified whether they will all be carried out in public centers or what role the law will reserve for specialized private clinics, which are the ones that assume mostly abortions since the 1980s and with which the Administration arranges the service. According to data from the Ministry of Health, currently only 15% of interventions are carried out directly in public centers.
“When a woman decides to have an abortion, she can go, for example, to her health center”, where she will receive information on how to access the benefit, and she can “call a specialized telephone line” if she wishes. Thus, the idea of the ministry is to eliminate the obligation to receive the envelopes with information that women currently receive before undergoing the intervention and that will only be provided “in cases in which women request it”. The text will also put an end to the three days of mandatory reflection that exists by law today. Women “may be referred immediately” to a hospital “for an emergency procedure,” Montero assured.
The ministry’s plans also go through recovering the right of 16 and 17-year-old girls to have an abortion without their parents’ consent after the Popular Party reformed the norm to exclude them in 2015. It was what was left of Alberto Ruiz’s counter-reform attempt -Gallardón, then Minister of Justice, to restrict the right to abortion in Spain and who resigned after strong social and feminist opposition. “In the same way that they are responsible for working or having sexual relations, they are responsible for deciding about their bodies,” the minister stated.
The law will also include content to guarantee “sex education for access to sexual and reproductive rights” at all educational levels and will promote access to contraception, also by men. In addition, “menstrual health will become a determining standard when assessing women’s access to health” and gynecological violence will be addressed as a form of sexist violence.