Spain makes harassment of women seeking abortions illegal

The Spanish Senate approved a bill modifying the country’s penal code to make “harassment” of women seeking abortions illegal.

By a vote of 154-105 on April 6, the law was passed without amendments. The Congress of Deputies had previously authorized it in February. When the law is published in the Official State Bulletin, which is expected this weekend, it will take effect.

The alliance of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party submitted the bill in May 2021. “Harassing women traveling to clinics for the voluntary interruption of pregnancy” will be illegal. Penalties will be imposed on anyone who promotes, favors, or participates in demonstrations near abortion facilities.

Harassment can result in jail time ranging from three months to a year, or community service ranging from 31 to 80 days. An individual can be restricted from a specific location for six months to three years depending on the reasons.

The People’s Party, Vox, and the Navarrese People’s Union were all against the bill, and the Senate’s Justice Committee rejected two veto motions on March 14.

Representatives from Vox have declared on multiple times that they will challenge the law to the Constitutional Court once it is published in the Official State Bulletin, claiming that it breaches the fundamental rights of expression and assembly. This course of action is likewise being considered by the People’s Party.

This bill is “a clear example of the absolute misuse of language,” according to Jacobo González-Robatto, a Vox senator, because “to abort is to kill, it is to end the life of a human person.”

The behavior of those who live near abortion clinics, according to González-Robatto, “consists wholly and totally of the last hope for the women and their children.”

This measure is “a legal aberration,” according to Fernando de la Rosa, a People’s Party senator, who claims that the PSOE “is not impartially considering rights, but rather is using the Penal Code as an instrument for the dissemination of its ideology and as a mechanism to single out people who don’t think like you.”

According to Alberto Catalán, a senator from the Navarrese People’s Union, the law attempts to “criminalize the protection of life” and that it is simpler to “give death than life” in today’s culture.

“It’s difficult to guess how those who demonstrate with a banner in front of an abortion center can be convicted,” Bárbara Royo, a criminal lawyer, told El Debate newspaper. “Their presence is not against any specific woman, but against a practice that for them, because of their beliefs, their ideology, or their religion, is not admissible.”

“Not to mention how a simple police report without a prior complaint from the potential victim could serve as a reason to punish; it undermines the fundamental principle that for there to be a crime, there must be a specific victim, in this case a woman, who is the identifiable target of the coercion,” the lawyer explained.

The PSOE described “harassment” of pro-life witnesses at abortion clinics as “approaching women with images, model fetuses, and proclamations against abortion… the purpose is for the women to reverse their decision by compulsion, intimidation, and harassment.”

The socialist parliamentary bloc stated that “ensuring a safe zone” around abortion clinics is “important.”

Pro-lifers might be prosecuted under the bill without the offended individual or their legal representative having to register a complaint.

Several cities have proposed or implemented “buffer zones” surrounding abortion clinics in recent years, limiting free speech in the protected areas.

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