Spaniards are currently debating a controversial plan by Socialist Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero to liberalize the country’s abortion law. The new measure would obligate the public healthcare system to provide free abortions without any restrictions for women 16 years and over up to the 14th week of pregnancy, and up to 22 weeks if there is a risk to the mother’s health or if the foetus is deformed. Women can also undergo the procedure after 22 weeks if doctors certify that the foetus has a serious deformity or incurable illness.
The new bill would reform the present law, passed in 1985, which legalizes abortion only for certain restricted cases: up to 12 weeks of pregnancy in cases of rape, up to 22 weeks in the case of severe foetal malformation, and at any point if a doctor certifies that the pregnancy represents a threat to the physical or mental health of the mother.
The Zapatero government says the new law is groundbreaking in Spain because it regards abortion as a right, not a crime. Equality Minister Bibiana Aído says that with the new law, “no woman will go to jail for interrupting her pregnancy.” In actual practice, however, abortion is already essentially legal on demand in Spain because the existing law is not enforced. According to the Spanish Ministry of Health, the number of abortions has more than doubled in the past decade, reaching a record-high 112,138 abortions in 2007 (the latest year for which official data is available), or more than 300 every day. At the current rate, one out of every five pregnancies in Spain will end in abortion by 2010. By some estimates, that would rank Spain as having one of the highest abortion rates in Europe.
The most controversial part of the proposed reforms would give girls aged 16 the right to abort without consulting their parents. The move, which has outraged Spanish voters on both sides of the political aisle, is the latest in an ambitious program of social change under Zapatero, who critics say is resolutely determined to destroy Spain’s Judeo-Christian ethical foundations, primarily by deconstructing the traditional family. Since Zapatero came to power in April 2004, Spain has legalized homosexual marriage and adoption, approved fast-track divorce, pushed stem-cell research and even granted “human rights” to apes.
In July 2005, Spain became the one of the first countries in the world to legalize same-sex “marriage.” The new law, which has now facilitated more than 13,000 “weddings” and 165 “divorces,” also grants homosexual couples the right to adopt children. In March 2006, the Zapatero government banned traditional gender references in legal documents relating to the family. On marriage certificates, for example, words such as “husband” and “wife” have been changed to “Spouse A” and “Spouse B.” On birth certificates, words such as “father” and “mother” are now “Progenitor A” and Progenitor B.”
In December 2006, the Zapatero government announced that homosexual “diversity” training would be mandatory in all schools. Also known as “Citizenship Education,” the new program requires that children from the age of nine be taught that homosexuality is the moral and physical equivalent of true marriage. It also includes lessons on “moral pluralism,” which argues that the Judeo-Christian concept of moral absolutes is inherently intolerant. Although many parents conscientiously object to what they say is a “totalitarian” move by the state to usurp the right of parents to determine the moral education of their children, the Spanish Supreme Court in January 2009 ruled that course is indeed obligatory for all children.
In June 2008, the Spanish parliament approved a Zapatero-inspired proposal to grant “human rights” (including the right to life, liberty and freedom from torture) to great apes, such as chimpanzees, gorillas and orang-utans. The initiative, which is premised on the idea that humans and apes are equal, is a direct attack on the concept of the sanctity of human life.
This purely materialistic view of human nature, which dominates the Zapatero government’s thinking, brings Spain’s abortion debate full circle. In defending the new abortion measures, Aído, recently speaking on the left-wing Cadena SER radio, argued that a 13-week-old foetus is not a human being. Responding to a call-in question from a radio listener, who said that a three-month-old foetus looked like a baby, Aído said: “A living being, yes. But we cannot say that it is a human being because this has no scientific basis.” And in answering critics who say 16-year-old girls should not be allowed to abort without informing their parents, Aído said: “A young girl can have breast enlargement surgery without the knowledge of her parents.”
Meanwhile, Health Minister Trinidad Jiménez announced that effective immediately the government will make the so-called “morning-after” contraception pill available at pharmacies without prescription, provoking accusations by the conservative opposition Popular Party that the Zapatero government views abortion as just “one more method of contraception.”
For her part, Deputy Prime Minister María Teresa Fernández de la Vega says the new bill is necessary to “preserve the dignity of women.” She also says it is “in line with today’s Spanish reality.”
But Spain’s real reality is that abortion, in addition to corroding Spanish attitudes toward life, is also imploding the Spanish population. According to the Madrid-based Institute for Family Policy (IFP), abortion is now the number one cause of death in Spain. By way of illustration, it says that every twenty days the number of abortions equals the annual number of people killed in traffic accidents. The IFP estimates that more than one million abortions have been carried out in Spain since 1985. As a result, Spain now has one of the lowest replacement fertility rates in the world. Even with millions of new immigrants from Latin America and North Africa, births just barely exceed deaths, resulting in what Spaniards call “desnatalidad” or the “de-birth rate.”
In response to Spain’s population crisis, Zapatero has launched the so-called “cheque bebé,” by which the government hopes to bribe Spanish parents into having children by paying them €2,500 ($3,500) for every newborn baby. In announcing the new policy, Zapatero (without even a touch of irony) declared: “In order to continue progressing, Spain needs more families with more children.”
Spanish voters are slowly beginning to take notice of Zapatero’s social re-engineering projects. During the general elections in March 2008, voters denied him an absolute majority in Spanish parliament, which is where his new abortion bill is now being debated. The bill also faces mounting opposition at the street level. Tens of thousands of people have marched against abortion in Spanish cities, and three recent opinion polls shows that most Spaniards, including a majority of socialist voters, are opposed to liberalizing the abortion law. A total of 64 percent of those surveyed in a poll for the leftwing daily newspaper El País opposed the measure. A poll for the conservative daily ABC found that 57 percent of Spaniards “totally” or “relatively” opposed the measure. A third survey, published by the left-leaning La Vanguardia newspaper, found that 71 percent of respondents were opposed to the new law.
Zapatero hopes to increase his poll numbers by stepping up attacks on the Roman Catholic Church. When church leaders dared to question why the state was trying to indoctrinate children with the homosexual ideology of the Spanish left, Zapatero unleashed the influential sociologist (and socialist attack dog) Gregorio Peces-Barba, who accused the church of “an extreme arrogance, a sensation of impunity and an insufferable sense of superiority, derived from the fact that they administer ‘superior truths.’” When the Catholic Church organized a poster campaign arguing that endangered species like the Iberian lynx have more legal protections than unborn babies, the socialist government threatened to review the church’s legal status.
As Zapatero fiddles with his post-modern “progressive” vision of morality, Spain is burning. Illegal immigration, joblessness, radical secularism, corruption, divorce, violent crime, drug abuse, alcoholism, obesity, sexual assault, murder, abortion and hedonistic utilitarianism are all up. Meanwhile, Judeo-Christian values, traditional marriage, personal responsibility, academic performance, respect for parental authority, pursuit of the work ethic, economic growth and procreation are all down. Many observers link both the cause and the effect of Spain’s societal troubles to a breakdown of the traditional family.
Soeren Kern is Senior Fellow for Transatlantic Relations at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group