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Spain Votes to Criminalise Pro-life Presence at Abortion Clinics by Bridget Ryder

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Spain Votes to Criminalise Pro-life Presence at Abortion Clinics

Pro-life advocates in Spain gathered outside the Senate building in Madrid early Wednesday morning, March 6th, to pray and demonstrate to the nation’s senators entering the legislature that morning that praying is not a crime.

“We want to remind them by our presence that by voting yes to the modification of the Penal Code, they are going to condemn thousands of mothers to the worst decision of their lives, and many babies to a cruel death, because they deprived them of a fundamental help. And this blood will stain their hands,” the group Derecho a Vivir (Right to Live) affirmed in a press release. 

The Senate was voting that morning on a change to the penal code that would criminalize pro-life supporters caught within close proximity of abortion clinics, labelling their presence as a from of violence of against women, punishable by up to one year in prison. To prosecute the crime in court, only a police report will be necessary, not an alleged victim.

The bill passed, 154-105, and has now become law. It is expected to be immediately challenged in the country’s constitutional court. Legal experts interviewed by the Spanish newspaper El Debate assert its questionable legality and impossible prosecution.

“It is difficult to guess how those who demonstrate with a banner in front of an abortion center can be condemned, because 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,” one expert told El Debate.

“Not to mention how the fact that a mere police report, without prior complaint from the possible victim, serving as a reason for sanction, eliminates the basic principle that for there to be a crime there must be a specific victim, in this case a woman, who is the identifiable objective of coercion,” the criminal lawyer Bárbara Royo also said in statements to El Debate.

The change in the law was proposed by the centre-left Partido Socialista Obrero Español (PSOE), which currently governs in a coalition with the neo-communist party Unidos Podemos, and was approved in the lower chamber of Parliament late last year. Now passed in the Senate, it will go into force once it is published in the Official Bulletin of the State, likely sometime in April. 

But pro-lifers have no intention of abandoning women at the doors of abortion clinics. 

Immaculada Fernandez, spokesperson for Derecho a Vivir, said in the statement: “What is clear is that praying is not a crime and no matter who it bothers, we will continue to go to do it and offer our help to all those women who need it, so that they see that abortion is not the only solution.”

Bridget Ryder is Spain-based writer. She has written on politics, environment, and culture for American and international publications. She holds degrees in Spanish and Catholic Studies.