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(en) Britain, The Anarchist Federation (AFED), RESISTANCE #157 - The Struggle Continues in Spain

Date Sat, 01 Nov 2014 10:46:38 +0200

In welcome news from Spain an attempt by the government to deny the right to abortion on demand has been abandoned in the face of heavy opposition from the people and campaigning groups. ---- The Minister of Justice Alberto Ruiz Gallardon had pioneered a bill to end access to abortion except in the case of rape or if there was a threat to the physical or mental health of the mother. In addition the bill proposed that a termination be based on the opinion of two doctors. ---- The bill had been part of the centre-right Popular People's party's program since 2011 when leader Mariano Rajoy promised to overturn previous legislation which gave women the right to terminate pregnancies of between 14 and 22 weeks. The governing People’s Party is strongly tied to the Catholic Church which had championed the bill. There has been little reportage of the bill in British press – astonishing considering it would be the most draconian law on abortion in Europe.

As the proposals took shape the usual demonstrations were called against them and took place on an almost daily basis. Tens of thousands of people demonstrated in Madrid in February 2014 displaying placards with the slogan “MPs and rosaries, out of my ovaries”.

New and more creative forms of struggle also emerged with the fight against the bill. One activist was Yolanda Dominguez, a visual artist based in Madrid who had been involved in campaigns in the past. These included Fashion Victims in which she exposed working conditions in Bangladesh.

She urged action against the bill saying,

“Enough of telling us what to do with our bodies, and when it has been moulded by and for others, transformed into an object and used as merchandise, we must prove that it is our property”.

Material Girl

During protests hundreds of women turned up at the Chamber of Commerce in their towns to register their body on the register of commerce as material goods, usually used for cars and planes.
Some employees of the chambers of commerce were put out by these applications but nevertheless accepted this move and gave them receipts and certificates. The women's aim was to underline the fact that their bodies belong to them and to add ironically:

“Because patriarchal society tends to make us believe that this body is a piece of merchandise, it is then normal to inscribe it on the commerce register, with the aim of certifying that it is our property”.

At Burgos in Northern Spain, women chose St. Valentine’s Day to turn up, en masse, at the Chamber of Commerce to register:

“Description, from head to toes, of all my members, without forgetting my organs and especially my uterus and my reproductive apparatus, all of which representing my unique and unreproducible person”.

Scientific and medical organisations such as Spanish Society of Gynecology and Obstetrics (Sego), the Spanish Society of Perinatal Medicine(Semepe), the Spanish Association of Prenatal Diagnostics (AEDP), the Spanish Society of Psychiatry (SEP) and the Spanish Association of Neuropsychiatry(AEN) also took a stand against the Gallardon bill, saying that they were not consulted.

All these organisations pointed out that the Gallardon bill would lead to a “psychiatrisation” of a problem which has nothing to do with the psychiatric discipline. As the SEP says: “To put an end to or interrupt a pregnancy cannot be considered as a pathological situation from the psychiatric point of view, and to predict with exactitude the risk of mental illness of a previously healthy person would have serious scientific “limits””. Sego, with a membership of thousands, considered that the bill had not been submitted to a rigorous debate.

Polls suggested that seventy to eighty per cent of the population were opposed to the bill and gradually this caused rifts within the People's Party as MP's concerned about being re-elected, were pushed into opposing the bill.

Finally in September 2014, in the face of massive protests and wholesale opposition from the populace the government has cracked. Prime Minister Rajoy has announced the abandonment of the bill and its architect Gallardon has resigned claiming he will be unable to turn watered down proposals into law.

This episode is a victory for mass campaigns against government intervention into women's lives. Much like the poll tax it shows that mass opposition can sometimes have an effect on government.

Having said this, the government have still pledged to reverse current laws and force 16 and 17 year olds to gain their parents’ consent for abortion. This effectively takes away the power of a young person to make decisions about their own, and gives it to someone else. It also forces them to reveal a traumatic issue to the very people they may for a variety of reasons most want to keep it from.

To borrow a slogan from one demonstration, La Lucha Continua! (“the struggle continues”)
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