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News From Latin America: Abortion and Intolerance: Constants of the Left?


Spain is now undergoing Socialist Party president Zapatero’s second term. These past years have seen the rampant growth of anti-Catholic and anti-life positions in the government, positions that seem often to go hand-in-hand.

Right now the Spanish congress, dominated by Zapatero’s party, is debating a liberalization of Spain’s abortion laws. Abortion is supposedly legal only for cases of rape, “fetal defect,” and danger to the mother’s physical or psychological health. In the case of rape and fetal defect the law allows abortions between 12 and 22 first weeks of pregnancy. For the “health” exception, however, there are no time limits.

But the socialists want more.

Zapatero’s party commission was able to proceed without any problems until the testimony of Eduardo Hertfelder, the president of Spain’s Institute of Family Policy. With the aid of detailed diagrams, Hertfelder showed how abortion has actually increased in Spain over the last 10 years, to more than double its original rate. He also showed how abortion is the principle cause of death in Spain and of violence against women. The evidence showed that 97% of abortions are performed because of a “risk to the woman’s psychological health,” which essentially allows abortion to be performed at any time.

Based on these findings, Hertfelder showed that abortion has increased so much in Spain that, calculating only until December 2006, 1,225,000 abortions have been performed in Spain. The socialist argument—that liberalized abortion laws will lead to fewer abortions—rings hollow in the face of these numbers. The fact of the matter is, the law is already flexible enough to allow abortion on demand, but the abortion rate still increases and increases.

The socialists also argue that they want to be equal to other European nations, insisting that the rest of Europe is more liberal than Spain on the topic of abortion. But Hertfelder demonstrated with numbers and data that this is simply not the case. The two countries that allow abortion to save the life of the mother, without any time limits, are Spain and Greece. As for the rest, two out of three of the rest of the E.U. nations require abortion to be justified by stricter standards. Many of them have instated waiting periods and required consultations before granting permission to abort.

Thus, the Socialist argument collapses on a second count: not everyone in Europe has laws as permissive as the ones the Socialist Party wants to implement in Spain.

At the end of Hertfelder’s exhibition, the Socialist leader of the congressional commission accused Hertfelder of manipulating his data. This accusation is ridiculous because the information is readily available on the internet, as well as being officially used for years by the European Parliament. The accusation represented an enormous breach of Congressional protocol, and the opposition party expressed anger and disappointment with Zapatero’s authoritarian attitude.

Hertfelder, after his presentation, said that “I got the impression that the socialist deputies were very nervous. This attitude demonstrates that the Socialist Party does not want a debate. They are rooted in ideological sectarianism and only interested in hearing that which supports their theses.”

In order to support its words, Hertfelder showed that while in France the abortion rate increased to 5% and in England 9%, in Spain the increase was 53%. In addition, according to a survey published by the newspaper The World, 57% of Spaniards do not want a more liberal abortion law. But listening to the people is not the style of Zapatero or his government.

The near future can be very well described by a quote from Jim Hoagland in a Washington Post column, where he said that “If Obama needs a European to ride shotgun, as Tony Blair did with Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, Zapatero may be the one”.

If this is the case, battlelines over the next several years will be clearly drawn.

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