Madrid, a high point in the struggle for a free abortion in Europe

Madrid, a high point in the struggle for a free abortion in Europe

Successful ending of the European campaign “Baton of Freedom”

To force us to be mothers is an act of violence against women. And we are not going to allow it”. So vehemently it was denounced by Cristina Simó, responsible for the Women's Secretariat of the Communist Party of Spain, and member of the Executive Board of the Party of the European Left. She spoke this way, open air, last May 10, at the start of a festive claiming day held in the Plaza Dos de Mayo, in the Centre of Madrid, which concluded the European campaign "The baton of freedom" in defence of the right to free, public abortion out of the criminal code in Europe. Although the campaign is European, clearly the eye of the hurricane broke out with the "retrograde and backward law" that the Spanish government wants to impose with its absolute majority in the Parliament”.

To combat this attack, "and to avoid a democratic involution" the rallying cry of United Left (Izquierda Unida, IU) was clear and loud: "Not one step backwards". This way it was underlined by Amaia Martínez, responsible for the Woman's Area of IU. The step can be only forward. She explained that the aim of IU and PCE is not to defend the current law based on time limits, but to take a step forward. And she exposed the claims of IU and PCE, such as the right of women to end their pregnancy at the time and for the reasons that they want to, without restrictions, without deadlines, without guardianship and in the public health network, among others demands.

In this proactive line Aurea Garde, of the Democratic Movement of Women, claimed that the voluntary interruption of pregnancy ceases to be considered a criminal offence in the Criminal Code and that it should be covered by the public health network. Garde also welcomed "this initiative of the Party of the European Left, very important to highlight the unity, from the plurality, of Europe and the solidarity between the European and Spanish women in the struggle for the fundamental right to free abortion”.

The different samples of support and solidarity in the form of concentrations, briefs, and letters addressed to ambassadors and members of the Spanish Government, materialized last February 9 when the Executive Board of the Party of the European Left (EL), gathered in Rome and approved the campaign for the right to free abortion at European level. They called it "The baton of freedom" and since then this torch in defence of the fundamental right of women to decide freely about their maternity has crossed Europe, from North to South and from East to West, passing by many cities from different European countries such as France, Austria, Germany, Greece, Belgium, Denmark, Italy...

There were indeed women from Greece, Italy, France and Finland who explained the situation of abortion in their respective countries at the closing ceremony of the campaign and how they carried out the campaign of claiming and solidarity with the women who live in the States most attacked by what they repeatedly qualified as “the alliance of the capital and of the patriarchy” against the women.

When the campaign began three months ago, the President of the EL, Pierre Laurent, as well as its Vice President Maite Mola, warned of that they were not facing "only a Spanish problem, but a European one" and were concerned that these attacks, and the involution of the rights, would affect more countries. Then they remembered the attempts, in this sense, tackled in Switzerland, Belgium, Malta or Poland.



But these attacks to voluntary interruption of abortion rights also occur in Nordic countries such as in Finland. Raisa Moussaka, of the Left Alliance of Finland, explained that in her country there is also a law based on pregnancy termination conditions that operates from more than 40 years ago.

There women also need a certificate of two different doctors and the interruption can only to be done on based on three pregnancy termination conditions: serious illness, crime or social and economic causes, “which allege that the woman cannot support the disproportionate burden of a child”.

The result, Moussaka said, is that "women have to lie" to obtain the permission to interrupt their pregnancy, "justifying not having enough money, when the reality is that they simply do not want carry on with it for whatever reason."

Regarding this Finnish law based on pregnancy termination conditions, the "massive victory of the far right" with the True Finns Party, should be added and how it has impacted in the ambiance and society to the point that "today in a televised debate someone may be asked if he or she is for or against abortion, something that years ago would be unthinkable."

In this situation she expressed the dichotomy of what would be best, if not provoking the Conservative Government to avoid further damage or if it is best to attack as the best defence".



The attacks, in other proportion, are also made in Italy. In some regions more than others. The Italian Anna Camposampietro, of the Communist Refoundation Party, spooked about the hard battle that the anti-abortion groups maintain in Lombardy so that abortion in the region turns into an odyssey and that the 80 % of the doctors of the region declares themselves conscience objectors. As a result, women who live there have to wait for the arrival of a doctor from Milan who should practise the abortion, adding that to the minority of doctors who do not object are being relegated to do only abortions.

A reality that remembers in many aspects the one lived in the north of Spain, in the autonomous region of Navarre.

Camposampietro argued that beyond the anti-abortion indirect attacks, what is behind is a strategy for a more general attack, as it happened already with the labor legislation. And this strategy materializes, for example, when two ministers of the government, come closer in their approaches. "While Minister for the Democratic Party, center-left, declares that the Act of abortion is a failure, the Minister of the party of Berlusconi, proposes a plan of birth that favours women who have children before age 35.

Both share government in the Big Italian Coalition, similar to the German one. Camposampietro remembered that three Euro MPs of the Democratic Party voted against the Report Estrela on health and reproductive rights, which was pushed back in the European Parliament by only 37 votes.

The feminist movement has been reactivated against these policies, said the communist leader, who recalled that on February 1 was conducted a demonstration in support of the Spanish women, because it is time of "unity and fight together".



The French Senator, Laurence Cohen, of group the Front de Gauche and the PCF (which in the French Senate holds the name of Communists, Republicans and Citizens) stressed that "is inadmissible that the right to abortion is put into question nowadays", as, among other things, it would be "an obstacle to the development of women".

In France the far right advances, and "among the requests of the National Front is the non-reimbursement of the costs of abortion". But without need for the FN, the difficulties in practice increase. According to Cohen, the centres for the interruption of pregnancy have been one of the nuclei of the commercialization of health, closing 130 in only a year. The result is that by reducing the infrastructure is becoming increasingly more difficult to abort in the legal time and therefore some women came to Spain.

The follow-up to the campaign of the French left by free abortion was made from the institutions and from the street. The Senators of the Communist, Republican, and citizen group abandoned their seats when the President of the Spanish Senate, defender of the draft Bill of the PP, visited the Senate.

April 26 was held in Paris a debate in favor of the right to abortion in Europe.


The retrograde Spanish draft of law of abortion does not answers to economical motives nor to austerity but to ideological principles. . The fact that these proposals of law do not obey to budgetary cuttings allows that in Greece the law provides for voluntary interruption of pregnancy up to the twelfth week of pregnancy. A term that extends to 19 weeks in case of rape to a minor, 24 weeks in case of serious malformations to the fetus, and at any time when there is danger to the mother.  The deputy of Syriza, Afrodita Stampauli, explained that today nobody questions that law and that only Golden Dawn appeals to the family and the promotion of the birth-rate.

In any case, one thing is the legal possibility and another the economic capacity.  Then it is when the consequences of the austerity are evident again: primary health care has been dismantled and today three million citizens, half of whom are women, are not insured and have to pay for medical care. Voluntary interruption of the abortion costs 300 euros, and the double when women are immigrants. If, in addition, the immigrant women are "without papers" doctors and healthcare workers are required to denounce it. And in the cases in which the homemade abortions are complicated, the majority by haemorrhages, women enter the hospitals by urgency.

Another problem is the null prevention policy. The contraceptive pill is not covered by National Healthcare System and in Greece only between 4 and 8% of women in reproductive age use them compared to the European average which is between 30 and 40 %. Condoms are presented as prevention of AIDS and lack sex education in schools.

Greek Deputy pleaded, as their Spanish comrades did, for "a European law that protect the sexual and reproductive rights of women in Spain, Poland Ireland, Malta and in the whole Europe, as well as a public health system that take care of sexual health, including abortion and contraception and which is not dismantled in the name of stability and competitiveness".



The vice-president of the Party of the European Left (EL), and also candidate to the European Parliament, Maite Mola, presented the feminist struggle in electoral and in European key, saying  “we will not be able to change this Europe if we do not have enough strength to do it”.

And that, a few days before the elections, translates into votes. For this reasons he asked for the vote to the European Left, "to defend the women not only on the street but also in the institutions", because "today we are not in an electoral act, we are in an act of defence of human rights, the rights of women".

Maite Mola appointed that the European Parliament is not a very interesting thing, but "it is influent", recalling that this Parliament rejected the Estrela report on sexual and reproductive health and rights. For this reason, she said "today is the day to support United Left".

Lara Martinez, also nominated for UI in these European elections, accused to the right to appropriates badly of the language: "Are we, not they, who defend the right to a dignified life, who have the right to decide about our bodies and our lives, and when and how we want to be mothers, so that our children will be able to live a dignified life and rights".

The candidate of 27 years, qualified Spanish born in a country with a youth unemployment close to 60% and emigrated to Berlin, explained that ' now we will not only have to go to London to find a job but also to abort, to avoid the risk of dying in a clandestine abortion in Spain".

It was another young woman, Marina Albiol, who occupies the fourth position in the candidacy of IU, who made a complaint of the economy of the Troika and how the austerity affect especially European women, "which incomes are 40% lower than men". He spoke of inequalities and how these oppress women, adding that "the Europe that we are going to bring will be Socialist and feminist”.

The playful and claiming event on a torrid morning day, lasted three hours, in which interventions were combined with music and performance in a crowded square. Cristina Simó, who opened the event, put the ending, as they do in the good TV series, with a kind of to be continued with this words: “we must continue with this baton”, assuming the struggle continues.

The campaign concluded in Madrid, two days after the Spanish minister of Justice confirmed the procedure in the Parliament of the draft of law of the abortion where the current law of interruption of the pregnancy based on time limits may change into a law of law based on pregnancy termination conditions, turning to a more retrograde situation even that the law of 1985, the first one after 40 years of dictatorship and 10 of transition. The procedure in the Parliament will be during the summer holidays, in July.