Spain criminalises harassment of women having abortions

Spain has passed a new law criminalizing the abuse, harassment and intimidation of women seeking abortions – with offenders facing up to a year in prison.

The government announced the new measure which results in an individual attempting to block a woman from terminating her pregnancy via harassment facing jail time of between three months and a year or being made to do community service.

Pedro Sanchez, Spain’s PM who is the leader of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party, put forward the idea for the new provision to the criminal code, which will be introduced in the next few days.

Offenders harassing and abusing healthcare professionals who work at abortion clinics will also be liable to be punished under the new measure.

Mara Clarke, of Abortion Support Network, whose organization delivers financial support, accommodation and consultation to women from the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and the UK seeking an abortion, hailed news the law would be changing in Spain.

“Abortion Support Network welcomes this news from Spain. People seeking abortion care deserve unfettered, unstigmatized access to healthcare,” she told The Independent.

“No other form of medical treatment requires that patients walk through a gauntlet of people who disagree with them.

“I’m hopeful that other countries with buffer zones and other anti-harassment legislation pending will follow suit. This includes Ireland, Northern Ireland, and England.”

Commenting on news the law was set to change in Spain, Katherine O’Brien, of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, the UK’s largest abortion provider, told The Independent: “No woman should face intimidation and harassment when trying to access abortion services.”

Ms O’Brien said protests staged by anti-abortion protesters outside clinics do not result in women not having terminations but do “cause real distress on what can already be a difficult day”.

The campaigner added this is not “morally right” behavior and is instead “simply cruel”. She argued campaigners who do not believe women should have a choice over whether they have an abortion “have every right to campaign for restrictions on women’s reproductive choice”, but warned they should not be protesting just outside of abortion clinics.

Ms O’Brien added: “In the UK, women and healthcare professionals are sadly regularly exposed to harassment from anti-abortion protesters outside clinics.

“These groups try to deter and prevent women from accessing abortion care in many ways including the display of graphic images of dismembered foetuses, and filming and following women and staff members.

“Abortion care is legal – and women deserve to access it without fear of being targeted in the street. The UK government needs to bring forward measures to establish buffer zones around clinics as a matter of urgency.”

It comes a week after The Independent reported campaigners were calling for a buffer zone to be introduced at a UK abortion clinic after warnings anti-abortion activists have harassed women hundreds of times outside the centre.

Activists have been accused of using intimidating and aggressive tactics outside the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) clinic in Bournemouth – including resorting to hiding baby clothes in bushes outside the clinic and distributing medically erroneous pamphlets.

BPAS said it has amassed more than 600 pieces of evidence about harassment which has occurred at the clinic since 2017.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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