Spanish Conservatives Attempt to Uphold Mostly Useless Abortion Law

Robin Marty

Spain's Conservative Party calls changes to abortion restrictions "unconstitutional," asks that abortion remain illegal even though most women obtain them anyway.

Spanish conservatives have taken their objections to loosening abortion restrictions in the country up with the highest court in the land, claiming that it “violates the balance between the rights of the mother and the rights of the unborn,” according to the Canadian Press.

Under Spain’s current abortion law, which dates back to 1985, Spanish women could in theory go to jail for getting an abortion outside certain strict limits — up to week 12 in case of rape and week 22 if the fetus is malformed.

But abortion is in effect widely available because women can assert mental distress as sole grounds for having an abortion, regardless of how late the pregnancy is. Most of the more than 100,000 abortions carried out each year in Spain were early-term ones that fell under this category.

The new law wipes away the threat of imprisonment and declares abortion to be a woman’s right.

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In challenging the 14-week clause as unconstitutional, the Popular Party cited a 1985 ruling from the constitutional Court that said a woman’s rights could not systematically take precedence over those of an unborn child, but rather only in cases of rape, fetal malformation or when the mother’s health is in jeopardy.

To establish a period for unrestricted abortion “violates the balance between the rights of the mother and the rights of the unborn,” Popular Party lawmaker Sandra Moneo said.

The law would also girls who are 16 or 17 years of age to have an abortion without parental permission, although it would still require parental notification, allegedly interfering with “parents’ right to have a say in the upbringing of their daughters.”

Analysis Abortion

Legislators Have Introduced 445 Provisions to Restrict Abortion So Far This Year

Elizabeth Nash & Rachel Benson Gold

So far this year, legislators have introduced 1,256 provisions relating to sexual and reproductive health and rights. However, states have also enacted 22 measures this year designed to expand access to reproductive health services or protect reproductive rights.

So far this year, legislators have introduced 1,256 provisions relating to sexual and reproductive health and rights. Of these, 35 percent (445 provisions) sought to restrict access to abortion services. By midyear, 17 states had passed 46 new abortion restrictions.

Including these new restrictions, states have adopted 334 abortion restrictions since 2010, constituting 30 percent of all abortion restrictions enacted by states since the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade in 1973. However, states have also enacted 22 measures this year designed to expand access to reproductive health services or protect reproductive rights.

Mid year state restrictions

 

Signs of Progress

The first half of the year ended on a high note, with the U.S. Supreme Court handing down the most significant abortion decision in a generation. The Court’s ruling in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt struck down abortion restrictions in Texas requiring abortion facilities in the state to convert to the equivalent of ambulatory surgical centers and mandating that abortion providers have admitting privileges at a local hospital; these two restrictions had greatly diminished access to services throughout the state (see Lessons from Texas: Widespread Consequences of Assaults on Abortion Access). Five other states (Michigan, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Virginia) have similar facility requirements, and the Texas decision makes it less likely that these laws would be able to withstand judicial scrutiny (see Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers). Nineteen other states have abortion facility requirements that are less onerous than the ones in Texas; the fate of these laws in the wake of the Court’s decision remains unclear. 

Ten states in addition to Texas had adopted hospital admitting privileges requirements. The day after handing down the Texas decision, the Court declined to review lower court decisions that have kept such requirements in Mississippi and Wisconsin from going into effect, and Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (R) announced that he would not enforce the state’s law. As a result of separate litigation, enforcement of admitting privileges requirements in Kansas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma is currently blocked. That leaves admitting privileges in effect in Missouri, North Dakota, Tennessee and Utah; as with facility requirements, the Texas decision will clearly make it harder for these laws to survive if challenged.

More broadly, the Court’s decision clarified the legal standard for evaluating abortion restrictions. In its 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, the Court had said that abortion restrictions could not impose an undue burden on a woman seeking to terminate her pregnancy. In Whole Woman’s Health, the Court stressed the importance of using evidence to evaluate the extent to which an abortion restriction imposes a burden on women, and made clear that a restriction’s burdens cannot outweigh its benefits, an analysis that will give the Texas decision a reach well beyond the specific restrictions at issue in the case.

As important as the Whole Woman’s Health decision is and will be going forward, it is far from the only good news so far this year. Legislators in 19 states introduced a bevy of measures aimed at expanding insurance coverage for contraceptive services. In 13 of these states, the proposed measures seek to bolster the existing federal contraceptive coverage requirement by, for example, requiring coverage of all U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved methods and banning the use of techniques such as medical management and prior authorization, through which insurers may limit coverage. But some proposals go further and plow new ground by mandating coverage of sterilization (generally for both men and women), allowing a woman to obtain an extended supply of her contraceptive method (generally up to 12 months), and/or requiring that insurance cover over-the-counter contraceptive methods. By July 1, both Maryland and Vermont had enacted comprehensive measures, and similar legislation was pending before Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R). And, in early July, Hawaii Gov. David Ige (D) signed a measure into law allowing women to obtain a year’s supply of their contraceptive method.

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But the Assault Continues

Even as these positive developments unfolded, the long-standing assault on sexual and reproductive health and rights continued apace. Much of this attention focused on the release a year ago of a string of deceptively edited videos designed to discredit Planned Parenthood. The campaign these videos spawned initially focused on defunding Planned Parenthood and has grown into an effort to defund family planning providers more broadly, especially those who have any connection to abortion services. Since last July, 24 states have moved to restrict eligibility for funding in several ways:

  • Seventeen states have moved to limit family planning providers’ eligibility for reimbursement under Medicaid, the program that accounts for about three-fourths of all public dollars spent on family planning. In some cases, states have tried to exclude Planned Parenthood entirely from such funding. These attacks have come via both administrative and legislative means. For instance, the Florida legislature included a defunding provision in an omnibus abortion bill passed in March. As the controversy grew, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal agency that administers Medicaid, sent a letter to state officials reiterating that federal law prohibits them from discriminating against family planning providers because they either offer abortion services or are affiliated with an abortion provider (see CMS Provides New Clarity For Family Planning Under Medicaid). Most of these state attempts have been blocked through legal challenges. However, a funding ban went into effect in Mississippi on July 1, and similar measures are awaiting implementation in three other states.
  • Fourteen states have moved to restrict family planning funds controlled by the state, with laws enacted in four states. The law in Kansas limits funding to publicly run programs, while the law in Louisiana bars funding to providers who are associated with abortion services. A law enacted in Wisconsin directs the state to apply for federal Title X funding and specifies that if this funding is obtained, it may not be distributed to family planning providers affiliated with abortion services. (In 2015, New Hampshire moved to deny Title X funds to Planned Parenthood affiliates; the state reversed the decision in 2016.) Finally, the budget adopted in Michigan reenacts a provision that bars the allocation of family planning funds to organizations associated with abortion. Notably, however, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) vetoed a similar measure.
  • Ten states have attempted to bar family planning providers’ eligibility for related funding, including monies for sexually transmitted infection testing and treatment, prevention of interpersonal violence, and prevention of breast and cervical cancer. In three of these states, the bans are the result of legislative action; in Utah, the ban resulted from action by the governor. Such a ban is in effect in North Carolina; the Louisiana measure is set to go into effect in August. Implementation of bans in Ohio and Utah has been blocked as a result of legal action.

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The first half of 2016 was also noteworthy for a raft of attempts to ban some or all abortions. These measures fell into four distinct categories:

  • By the end of June, four states enacted legislation to ban the most common method used to perform abortions during the second trimester. The Mississippi and West Virginia laws are in effect; the other two have been challenged in court. (Similar provisions enacted last year in Kansas and Oklahoma are also blocked pending legal action.)
  • South Carolina and North Dakota both enacted measures banning abortion at or beyond 20 weeks post-fertilization, which is equivalent to 22 weeks after the woman’s last menstrual period. This brings to 16 the number of states with these laws in effect (see State Policies on Later Abortions).
  • Indiana and Louisiana adopted provisions banning abortions under specific circumstances. The Louisiana law banned abortions at or after 20 weeks post-fertilization in cases of diagnosed genetic anomaly; the law is slated to go into effect on August 1. Indiana adopted a groundbreaking measure to ban abortion for purposes of race or sex selection, in cases of a genetic anomaly, or because of the fetus’ “color, national origin, or ancestry”; enforcement of the measure is blocked pending the outcome of a legal challenge.
  • Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) vetoed a sweeping measure that would have banned all abortions except those necessary to protect the woman’s life.

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In addition, 14 states (Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee and Utah) enacted other types of abortion restrictions during the first half of the year, including measures to impose or extend waiting periods, restrict access to medication abortion, and establish regulations on abortion clinics.

Zohra Ansari-Thomas, Olivia Cappello, and Lizamarie Mohammed all contributed to this analysis.

News Politics

Blackburn’s False Abortion Allegations Fuel Conservative Call to Action

Christine Grimaldi

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) remarks at Friday’s faith-based Road to Majority conference garnered the loudest rounds of applause when she pointed to her “strong, pro-life" team of Republican colleagues on her Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives and touted the constitutional rights of “unborn children” in the country.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) challenged fellow conservatives to vote against “big abortion” and trafficking in “baby body parts” at Friday’s faith-based Road to Majority conference.

As chair of a U.S. House of Representatives panel investigating specious allegations that Planned Parenthood profited from fetal tissue donations, Blackburn is no stranger to using inflammatory rhetoric.

She derided what she described as thousands of fetal tissue “transactions” during the general session of the joint Faith & Freedom Coalition and Concerned Women for America event.

Screens showing select images of Blackburn’s “evidence,” which reportedly duplicated or nearly duplicated the documents in the widely discredited Center for Medical Progress (CMP) videos that triggered the Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives’ investigation, flanked her on either side of the stage.

Held at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C., the three-day conference features panel discussions with titles such as “First Amendment Revolt: How to Stop the Left’s All-Out Assault on Religious Freedom & Freedom of Speech” and “A Cronyism Crisis: How Corporate Welfare Undermines Markets and Human Flourishing.”

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Blackburn opened the general session, which featured a roster of prominent conservative lawmakers and activists. Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump closed the session.

Blackburn’s remarks garnered the loudest rounds of applause when she pointed to her “strong, pro-life” team of Republican colleagues on the panel and touted the constitutional rights of “unborn children” in the country. She also made specific disclosures about the scope of an investigation that recently veered from targeting fetal tissue procurement and research to later abortion care.

Eight procurement businesses are under the panel’s scrutiny, Blackburn told the crowd. She said the panel has issued 36 subpoenas to date but claimed little cooperation from “middle men” and their suppliers—“big abortion.”

She told the crowd she planned to start “the contempt process,” which earned her another round of applause.

Blackburn urged the audience to get involved with the panel, including signing up for the mailing list and downloading documents from the website. The panel’s publicly available subpoenas and other documents have provoked widespread concern in the medical community, particularly after Blackburn’s staff failed to redact researchers’ names and contact information despite past assurances.

Although staff removed the names from the panel’s website after nearly 48 hours, the unredacted versions of the documents remained available for days at the links sent to press in Blackburn’s original news release. The links have since been deactivated.

Blackburn extended her call for activism to the upcoming presidential election. She took swipes at presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and called on conservatives to stand up for the “millions yet unborn” in the election.