‘If passed, this bill would send the country back several decades to a precarious time for women and girls’ human rights’ - Jezerca Tigani
The Spanish government must withdraw a proposed bill aimed at limiting women and girls’ access to safe and legal abortion services, Amnesty International has said in a letter sent to the country’s Minister of Justice.
The proposed bill presents a series of obstacles to accessing a safe and legal abortion.
For example, any woman or girl seeking an abortion would have to obtain two certificates from doctors at different centres, confirming any risks to the life and health of the woman and the foetus. She would also be obliged to receive counselling and information on non-medical issues, and then wait seven days during a “reflection” period. Parental consent will be obligatory for girls between 16 and 18 years of age.
In the case of women and girls who are pregnant as a result of rape, the bill requires that they report the crime to the police before they can access a safe and legal abortion. This would be particularly problematic for migrant women and girls with irregular status, who would in some cases risk being expelled from the country if they went to the authorities to report a rape.
Amnesty said that the bill would have a negative impact on health professionals, creating a climate of fear that would make doctors turn patients away and fail to provide information to women. It puts medical judgment under question and limits health professionals’ capacity to provide information, advice and medical services to their patients.
Amnesty International Europe and Central Asia Deputy Director Jezerca Tigani said:
“If passed, this bill would send the country back several decades to a precarious time for women and girls’ human rights.
“The new bill establishes a humiliating series of barriers for a women or girl to overcome before they can access a legal and safe abortion. It limits women’s autonomy.”
Amnesty International Spain Director Esteban Beltrán said:
“The bill is also discriminatory. If passed, it would disproportionately affect young and poor women as they don’t have the necessary means to travel abroad and access safe and legal abortion services.
“Women and girls who don’t want to report a crime should not be forced to do so and, even less so, forced to do so in order to access services they need to deal with the consequences of a rape.
“This bill is a regressive measure under international law that would have serious implications for the protection of the human rights of women and girls. Amnesty International urges the authorities to immediately withdraw it.”
Background: international experts’ concerns
On 20 December “The Organic law for the protection of the life of the conceived and the rights of the pregnant woman” was adopted by the Spanish Council of Ministers. The bill is now pending parliamentary debate. Amnesty is calling on the Spanish government to guarantee that relevant individuals and organisations are actively and effectively involved in the development of the proposed bill, which did not happen before it was adopted in December.
The bill proposes banning publicity materials about health centres that provide voluntary terminations, contrary to UN recommendations regarding the obligation to inform women about safe and legal abortion services. The World Health Organisation has recommended decriminalising the provision of and access to information regarding legal abortion
In 2012, the United Nations Committee for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights called on the Spanish government to guarantee the implementation of law 2/2010 to ensure equal access to safe and legal abortion services for all women. It also called on Spain to ensure that the right of health personnel to exercise their right to objection of conscience doesn’t constitute an obstacle for women who want to terminate a pregnancy; and to pay special attention to the situation of adolescents and migrants.
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, the World Health Organisation and the Council of Europe have said that laws that restrict abortion lead to an increase in the number of illegal and unsafe abortions, and contribute to maternal mortality.
Meanwhile, the UN Special Rapporteur, the World Health Organisation and the Council of Europe have ruled that obligatory waiting periods are not medically necessary, that the request for more than one doctor to approve a procedure, or parental consent constitute barriers to accessing safe and legal abortion services, particularly to young women and those on low incomes. The World Health Organisation has also recommended that advice provided to any woman, if she requests it, should not try to influence her, but only enable her to make an informed decision.