The Spanish pro-life movement is not letting the country’s supreme court get away with judicial improvisation.
The Asamblea de Asociaciónes Por la Vida, La Libertad, y La Dignidad announced in Madrid on June 28th that it was filing a complaint against the country’s highest court with various institutions of the European Union.
The group, which is an umbrella organisation of more than 130 pro-life entities, publicly presented its legal strategy to challenge the recent decision of Spain’s top court on a 2010 law that allowed for abortion on demand up to 14 weeks of pregnancy.
The law was passed under a socialist-led government and immediately challenged in court by the centre-right Partido Popular. However, the constitutional court took thirteen years to hand down a judgement on the matter, finally pronouncing the law constitutional on May 9th. Additionally, though its constitutionality was questioned, the law went into effect.
The pro-life movement is accusing the court of a lack of impartiality. It claims the court took so long before rendering its decision because it was waiting until the court was stacked with judges in favour of the abortion law. The current socialist-led government used a similar manoeuvre earlier this year to ensure judicial approval of its political agenda.
Specifically, the pro-life organisation cites the fact that four of the judges who voted on the law had previously handed down rulings involving the abortion law, while they were judges in other courts, meaning that they should have abstained from voting in the constitutional court decision.
The organisation had filed the same complaint in March with the Spanish constitutional court and never received a response. Now it’s taking the same accusations to the European Court of Human Rights, the Petitions Committee of the European Parliament, and the EU Commissioner for Justice.
Francisco La Moneda, a legal scholar and lawyer, pointed out during the panel presentation the unusual nature of the case. He recalled that the assembly’s formal complaint to Spain’s constitutional court marked “the first time in our democratic history, civil society filed a complaint before our highest court requesting that the magistrates involved in recusal proceedings be removed from this procedure.”
“It is equally exceptional how this sentence has affected the image of impartiality of the Court,” he added.
He also affirmed that the Spanish Constitution does not include a right to abortion.
Panellist Federico Trillo, a lawyer and former state legal counsel, added, “this [complaint] is not against anyone and even less against women, but, quite the contrary, it tries to reaffirm and unite all those who want to work for the main right, the right to life.”
He affirmed, quoting Spanish philosopher Julián Marías, that “the social acceptance of abortion is the most serious thing that has happened this century.”
He also encouraged pro-life groups to continue to fight bad juris prudence, as the pro-life movement has done in the U.S., noting that the 2023 ruling was a double trap: the judges stated in their opinion that they thought themselves bound by legal precedent, which, he noted, had once recognized the right to life. Instead, Trillo concluded, the court declared, without precedent, a right to abortion that affects a legally protected asset: life.
The complaint could make President Pedro Sanchéz’s political position more uncomfortable. He took over the EU presidency as of July 1st but is facing elections at home on July 23rd, which, according to current polls, he will lose. The Spanish court system was also under Brussels’ scrutiny last year for the political blockade regarding new appointments to its governing body.