In Spain, Abortions Are Legal, but Many Doctors Refuse to Perform Them

Many physicians in the country call themselves “conscientious objectors” and deny the procedures, often forcing women to travel long distances for one.

By Nicholas Casey
Sept. 21, 2021

ZARAGOZA, Spain — Dr. Mercedes Sobreviela, a gynecologist in this city in northeast Spain, believes it is a woman’s choice whether she has an abortion. She says the “right decision” for a woman is “always the one she wants.”

But as a physician in Spain, Dr. Sobreviela believes she has the right to choose as well, and she has chosen not to perform abortions.


SPAIN – Abortion is prohibited in Rioja

From: International Campaign for Women's Right to Safe Abortion
March 24, 2021

Rioja is a province and autonomous community in northern Spain. A report in a feminist magazine called Pikara, published on 17 February 2021, reported that all the gynaecology staff in Rioja have signed a conscientious objection statement in order not to have to do voluntary abortions. Women from Rioja are therefore referred to other provinces, which can delay their abortions by as much as two weeks, despite the fact that the upper time limit for a legal abortion on request is 14 weeks and a three-day reflection period is also required.
This article focuses on the personal experiences of women who have tried to get an abortion in Rioja. After it was published, many feminist activists in the province expressed concern because they didn’t realise this situation existed. Other voices have been raised from other regions of Spain as well. This is very important for us at Women’s Link Worldwide, as we have been denouncing these situations for years and they are finally starting to get space in the media via personal testimonies, and not only based on the official statistics we have shared. The following are excerpts from the much longer Pikara article.
When Maria realised she was pregnant, she made an appointment with her family doctor for an abortion. She was a single mother with a one-year-old son and couldn't consider having another child at the time. The doctor was about to say "congratulations" when Maria burst into tears. “She treated me very well and started the process for me, but she was the only doctor who did treat me well.” Her doctor did not have the papers she needed for Maria to get an appointment at the local hospital, where she would be counselled and formally request an abortion. After the papers were finally sent in, however, the hospital did not contact Maria to make an appointment for ten days. So she went in person to ask what the problem was, and was told that the hospital, and no other hospital in Rioja, public or private, would help with abortion because of conscientious objection.
So Maria had to go looking for another hospital to counsel her. However, the staff at the one she found was on holiday for a week. By the time she saw someone, it was on a Wednesday, she was eight weeks pregnant. She was told she had to wait to collect the papers until the following Monday, though that was longer than the required three days for reflection. She began to feel overwhelmed because yet another week was going to go by. When she returned for the consultation and confirmed she wanted an abortion, she was given three options, all of which involved travel to another city – Zaragoza, Pamplona or Bilbao. She chose Bilbao because it was closest and she had a friend there. By the time she was able to get an appointment however, she was already 11.5 weeks pregnant. That was too late for medical abortion pills so she had a surgical abortion, and was given only a sedative.
Another woman, a mother of two children, was given a very hard time by the doctor who she saw to get permission for the abortion. She said: “In my case I already had two children. I know what a fetus can turn into later. It was very unpleasant. They even told me that they recommended I have my tubes tied, that I was irresponsible. I had to do a lot of paperwork and it took two weeks for me to make an appointment at a clinic in Pamplona. Then you get there and you find an anti-abortion demonstration at the door, telling you to put it up for adoption. I had to ask for the day off to go there, paying for the trip out of my pocket, have the intervention at five in the afternoon and by seven return home… When I had my third child, I was fired from my job while breastfeeding, despite having been at the company for five years. It's easy to say don't abort, of course, but then look what happens."
Another woman described how she experienced contraceptive failure and was told by the local hospital that abortion was illegal. As a public defender herself, she knew that was wrong, but rather than argue she decided to go to a private hospital in Logroño, the capital of Rioja, where they explained that they did not perform abortions either and that she should try a gynaecology clinic in the city. In the end she found a private clinic in Vitoria, a city near Bilbao, and paid 300 Euros plus the bus trip. The boyfriend had freaked out and disappeared, so she was relieved she hadn't had the baby. She said she didn’t dare to tell her family as she felt ashamed. “Before my abortion, I had no idea that this sort of thing was happening because no one talks about it,” she said.
One of the places that women in Rioja are seen locally is the hospital emergency room – if they are miscarrying, that is. “Officially, there is no one who performs abortions in Rioja, but sometimes women with ‘an abortion in progress’ arrive at the emergency room, and then they do care for you, of course, because it has already happened. Women come in bleeding because someone has given them the abortion pills, this happens a lot.”
There are also private clinics making money out of this situation. In 2019 the Socialist Party won the election in Rioja, and formed a government with United We Can. Although the pandemic has delayed action, a commitment has been made to ensure that a sufficient number of gynaecologists will provide abortions. A new equality bill is also on the table and ideas are being discussed for a law that will ensure abortion is provided in Rioja in the public health system. Let’s hope so.
BACKGROUND: by Laura Martínez Valero, Women’s Link Worldwide, E-mail: 11 March 2021.
REPORT: Prohibido abortar en La Rioja, by Teresa Villaverde, Pikara, 17 February 2021 (en español). VISUAL: Pikara logo.

Spain abortion: Government works to repeal parental consent rule

Oct 8, 2020

The Spanish
government has said it wants to change the law to allow 16 and 17-year-olds to
seek an abortion without parental permission.

Equality Minister Irene Montero said women should have the right to
"decide about their bodies".


Abortion is a protected right in Spain. But the govt blocked a website that provides abortion info and pills.

Since becoming legal in 1985, right-wing politicians have periodically made feeble attempts to limit or ban access to abortions. Each time it happens though, the action is met with strong pushback from the public.

July 16, 2020
By Shauna Blackmon and Lucía Benavides

Access to abortion in Spain is sacrosanct. The procedures are free — covered by the public national health care system — and allowed up until the 14th week of pregnancy for any reason; until the 22nd week with a doctor’s note; and sometimes after 22 weeks if there are issues with either the fetus’ or the mother’s health.

Since abortion become legal in 1985, right-wing politicians have periodically made feeble attempts to limit or ban access to it. Each time it happens, though, the action is met with strong pushback from the public.


The Covid-19 crisis has made it even more difficult to get an abortion in Spain

The Covid-19 crisis has made it even more difficult to get an abortion in Spain
(from International Campaign for Safe Abortion, translated from Spanish)

by Marisa Kohan
April 6, 2020

With public health services, a woman has to go through three, even four steps before she can have an abortion, sometimes having to travel far from where she lives. To date, this process has only been changed in Catalonia in response to Covid-19. One of these legally compulsory trips is to collect in person an envelope with information prepared by each autonomous community – known as 'face-to-face information' that contains an explanation of the abortion procedure and other resources in case the woman changes her mind. From that point, she must wait three days (mandatory reflection), before an abortion can be carried out.

For several weeks, various SRHR advocacy groups have been calling on the autonomous provincial governments and central government to reduce the number of trips necessary to access an abortion and thus reduce the risk of Covid-19 infection. They have called for procedures to be carried out electronically, such as the delivery of the envelopes.

On 3 April, Catalonia became the first and only community to eliminate this face-to-face procedure. An order from the Ministry of Health decreed that this information should be delivered electronically. The Association of Accredited Clinics for the Termination of Pregnancy (ACAI), whose clinics remain open, made this same request to the Ministry of Health, but to date have received no response. They also forwarded the request to the Minister of Equality, whose sources affirmed to Público that the "proposals are being studied", and "everything will be coordinated with Health, which is the competent Ministry", but not saying which proposals are on the table.

"It is paradoxical that during a state of emergency, in which absolutely everything has been regulated and with restrictions on fundamental rights and civil rights, no one has yet tackled this issue," said Silvia Adalvert, spokesperson for the Association of Family Planning of Catalonia and the Balearic Islands. "What we are talking about is how women are at risk right now. When the message is to stay home, we are still asking women to make three visits to three different health centres, in many cases in another province. In the end, abortion remains a right that is not a right."

Migrant women already faced many obstacles, but now some of the health centres they must use have closed, and they are still required to comply with a series of administrative requirements, including to demonstrate they have been in Spain for more than 90 days.

SOURCE (in Spanish): Público, by Marisa Khohan, 7 April 2020 ; PHOTO, by Tomas Bravo, Reuters, 2013

Abortion provision thrown into doubt by coronavirus pandemic

Abortion provision thrown into doubt by coronavirus pandemic

By Laura Smith-Spark, Valentina Di Donato and Stephanie Halasz, CNN
March 27, 2020

London (CNN)As the coronavirus pandemic sweeps the globe, women's access to abortion is one of many healthcare provisions thrown into jeopardy.

The UK government caused confusion this week when it first announced that women would temporarily be allowed to access early medical abortion at home, rather than attending a clinic -- and then, hours later, reversed its decision.


SPAIN – Anti-abortion lawyers’ group loses their case against two abortion clinics

SPAIN – Anti-abortion lawyers’ group loses their case against two abortion clinics

by International Campaign for Women's Right to Safe Abortion
Feb 20, 2020

The Superior Court of Justice of the Principality of Asturias, the highest court in the Principality, has overturned the ruling of the Provincial Court of Oviedo and found that the publicity materials of the Belladona and Buenavista Clinics are in conformity with the regulations of the Spanish Society of Gynaecology and Obstetrics. The ruling supports the decision of the Ministry of Health in the Principality, who defended the two clinics’ promotional information. The health professionals in both clinics are members of ACAI (Association of Accredited Abortion Clinics), a national association.

The Provincial Court of Asturias had ruled in favour of a complaint by an active anti-abortion Christian lawyers’ group a few days previously, which argued that the clinics’ publicity was misleading. However, the Superior Court of Justice maintained that the lawyers’ group lacked legitimacy to oppose the clinics’ appeal, since it had no “subjective right or legitimate interest in the matter” in accordance with jurisdictional law.


Vox deputy offering ultrasounds to women outside Madrid abortion clinics

Vox deputy offering ultrasounds to women outside Madrid abortion clinics
Far-right politician Gadór Joya has not confirmed how long she has been running the “Life Ambulance Project,” or how many patients she has persuaded to go forward with their pregnancies

Isabel Valdés
Madrid 18 NOV 2019

A member of the Spanish far-right group Vox has been performing ultrasounds on pregnant women outside abortion clinics in Madrid. Gádor Joya, a pediatrician and a deputy in the Madrid regional assembly, says she has been providing the free service – dubbed the “Life Ambulance Project” – from a van because she believes women “don’t know what they are carrying inside them” when they get pregnant.

“I and other doctors have been giving these women ultrasounds… Precisely because I have been doing this, I know what has been hidden from these women. Most of them, when they receive the information and hear the heartbeat, decide to go forward with their pregnancies,” said Joya at a regional health committee meeting on November 5.


Barriers to Access to Abortion for Migrant Women in Spain

Barriers to Access to Abortion for Migrant Women in Spain

April 11, 2019

Spain has a law limiting access to public healthcare services for migrants with irregular immigration status
Advocacy groups condemn the restriction, which undermines the sexual and reproductive rights, including abortion rights, of migrant women

Madrid, 11 April 2019 – The international organization Women’s Link Worldwide and the Commission for the Investigation of Violence Against Women have filed a complaint with the Spanish Office of the Ombudsman detailing the cases of six migrant women with irregular immigration status whose access to abortion was delayed by the Madrid public health system. The women were victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation, or otherwise at risk.


It’s time for the Philippines to decriminalize abortion

It’s time for the Philippines to decriminalize abortion
Most of the women who are hospitalized and die from complications from unsafe abortion are poor, Roman Catholics, married, with at least 3 children, and have at least a high school education

Clara Rita Padilla
June 01, 2018

Last May 25, in a historic referendum, Ireland paved the way to increase access to abortion. The Irish citizens who voted to repeal the 8th amendment to the Constitution providing equal protection to the life of the woman and the unborn have won. This is great news for Irish women and for women living in restrictive abortion laws.

Finally, the overwhelming vote of 66.4% to repeal the 8th amendment is in line with women’s right to health. It clearly manifests respect for women’s right to decide and a significant step to save women’s lives and freedom from disability that result from denial of access to safe and legal abortion.