Spain Criminalizes the Harassment of Women Undergoing Abortions

On April 6, Spain’s Senate approved landmark legislation that criminalizes the harassment of women who are undergoing abortions.

The new legislation was approved by 154 versus 105 votes, ushering in a change to Spain’s penal code. The law is expected to come into effect as soon as it gets published in its official gazette.

Proposed by the Socialist Party, the new law will help women avoid being harassed when “exercising the right to voluntary interruption of pregnancy.”

Abortions through the 14th week of pregnancy are legal in Spain. These abortions do not require medical justifications, although women below 18 years old who need an abortion are required to have parental consent.

Despite being legal, doctors in government hospitals decline from performing the procedure, calling themselves conscientious objectors. This also forces women seeing abortions to seek out private clinics.

This objection also leads some women to travel hundreds of kilometers to access private abortion clinics. Most of these private abortion clinics are camped by anti-abortion protesters.

According to the Association of Accredited Clinics for Pregnancy Termination (ACAI), more than 100 women report being harassed when they go into abortion clinics each year.

ACAI added that 89% of women seeking abortion reported being harassed, while 66% felt that they were in danger. The new law will penalize anyone who harasses a woman going into an abortion clinic.

According to the new legislation, anyone who attempts “to impede from exercising her right to voluntarily interrupt pregnancy with bothersome, offensive, intimidating or threatening acts” will face between three to twelve months of jail time or community service.

However, some lawmakers argue that the new law will infringe on the constitutional right to freedom of speech.

Inmaculada Fernández, a spokesperson for the opposition, said they “will continue to pray and offer our help to all those women who need it so that they can see that abortion is not the only solution.”

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