THE BLOG

Spain Desperately Needs to Embrace the Pro-Choice Movement

01/04/2014 12:50 BST | Updated 30/05/2014 10:59 BST

I live in a country where a newspaper can get away with using the headline 'Murder is a crime once again' alongside a picture of a smiling baby on its front page. Murdering babies is, of course, already a crime; it's not until you read the story that you realise the crime they are referring to is abortion. Of course, plastering the front cover with a photo of a bunch of cells wouldn't have had the same sensationalist shock value. Welcome to Spain.

Under the current government's plans, abortion will only be legal in only two cases: if the mother was raped, or if she stands to seriously risk her mental or physical health by giving birth. The proposal's announcement back in December was met with outrage and huge pro-choice demonstrations in favour of women's right to decide. The new reform is so controversial that even high profile politicians within the government's own ranks have publicly expressed their disagreement. The fact that the Spanish justice minister is not even a woman makes the law even more despicable. This is yet another example of men making decisions on matters they will never experience. To put it plainly: women's reproductive rights have been set back almost 30 years. Even the 1985 abortion law was more progressive, as it also allowed for the procedure in the case of foetal malformation.

However, in a country as ideologically divided as Spain, demonstrations and campaigns in favour of the retrograde reform were also bound to emerge. Religious and conservative demonstrations have always had a strong and passionate following, and pro-life organisations such as 'Derecho a Vivir' (Right to Life) even claimed the reform wasn't good enough, as it still allowed for abortion in two scenarios. Nevertheless, they still championed this draconian step back as a triumph of life.

But, whose life really benefits under this law? The life of the woman who will have to travel abroad, or worse, have an illegal backstreet abortion, putting her life at risk? The life of the woman who will have to give birth against her will? The pro-life movement clearly doesn't care about these lives. Spain needs to embrace the pro-choice movement.

Contrary to popular belief, pro-choice doesn't mean pro-abortion. In fact, the term 'pro-choice' is completely self-explanatory: abortion or no abortion, baby or no baby, being pro-choice means you'll support women regardless of what they choose to do with their bodies. The key difference between pro-life and pro-choice ideology is that the pro-choice approach values women's lives.

'Pro-life' is a fallacious stance to adopt. What it understands by 'life' is actually 'birth,' in other words, making sure the baby is delivered, regardless of the consequences this could have for the mother. What comes after the birth is ignored. Pro-lifers are nowhere to be seen when the real challenges of parenthood begin. The same government that gives them so much joy when it comes to abortion is also the one that severely cuts child and disability benefits. Are any pro-lifers fighting against these cuts? No. At this point, they retreat into their catch-22, mother-blaming mantra, where women simply can't win: if they wish to have an abortion, they're evil, but if the child is born and the mother can't provide for it, she's a bad mother and should've thought about the consequences earlier.

At the heart of the pro-life movement lies a deeply entrenched paternalistic approach to women's behaviour--women can't be trusted with their bodies. Women don't know what's best for them. Treating women in this way is extremely condescending and detrimental. Being pro-choice means you believe reproductive decisions should ultimately be taken by women, and only women, discussing it with their partner if they so wish. The final decision, however, should always be the woman's choice, without any external coercion.

Abortions are never easy. Women don't just have them on a whim--these decisions are often painful, heart breaking, but ultimately necessary. To force a woman to have an unwanted child is extremely cruel and will bring about more harm than good. No woman deserves that.

The bottom line is that you can't judge women who decide to have an abortion. In my opinion, even listing the most common reasons for having an abortion in order to justify it is reductive and judgemental. The circumstances are endless and deeply personal to each woman, and if they are important enough lead them to an abortion clinic, this in my view makes them, whatever they may be, valid.

Being pro-choice is the best choice. It respects a woman's agency over her own body and treats her as a fully autonomous individual with the ability to decide for herself. For many of you, this understanding of women and their autonomy is something you may take for granted. Unfortunately, however, many people still seem to believe the contrary - especially in Spain.

In the words of French philosopher Hélène Cixous, 'Either you want a kid or you don't--that's your business.'