Abortion clinics report spike in vandalism

Anti-abortion activists step up pressure ahead of government changes to legislation

Anti-abortion activists protesting outside the Dator abortion clinic in Madrid. / LUIS SEVILLANO

Anti-abortion groups are getting more radical in their rhetoric and in their actions.

In the face of government delays, these groups have been making increasingly vocal demands for legislative reform to curtail access to pregnancy terminations.

But now, abortion clinics are also reporting several instances of vandalism against their premises, according to formal complaints to which EL PAÍS has had access.

At least three planned parenthood centers in Madrid have been spray-painted and their windows shattered by unidentified groups in the past weeks.

In essence, nothing has happened in these five months since the Cabinet passed the bill

The escalating violence reflects activists’ impatience at the Popular Party (PP) government, which is dragging its feet with its planned reform following widespread opposition to its restrictive clauses, even within party ranks. With elections to the European Parliament right around the corner, the center-right PP does not wish to alienate any of its own voters over an issue that can be put to parliament after the polls on May 25.

Two abortion clinics in Madrid, Isadora and Dator, have had their façades plastered with graphic photographs of the aftermath of alleged abortion procedures, and daubed with insults.

“They also hurled stones at our glass front and broke it,” says Isadora spokeswoman Empar Pineda, adding that while protests by anti-abortion activists outside their doors are a regular occurrence, the frequency has increased in recent weeks.

“They are more present and more active than we’d ever seen them before. The fact that the bill is on standby is generating a lot of dissatisfaction,” says Pineda.

Abortion clinics will ask the government delegation to step in, she says. “We cannot allow them to make the women coming in to see us feel uncomfortable.”

“These groups have gone from praying outside the clinics to smashing their glass windows,” notes Socialist deputy Ángeles Álvarez. “These incidents should place the government delegation [in Madrid] on alert.”

Five months have gone by since the Cabinet approved a plan to scrap the 2010 law passed by the Socialists, which allows abortion on demand during the first trimester. The new legislation will take Spain back to a situation whereby terminations are not permitted, save for exceptions such as rape and danger to the mother’s health.

These groups have gone from praying outside clinics to smashing their windows”

The most controversial part of the bill was its initial intention of banning abortions in the case of accredited fetal deformities, which has been allowed in Spain since the 1980s. But widespread opposition to this provision has led to government to say it will make changes.

In essence, no progress has been made in these five months. The government is still waiting for several non-binding reports that are necessary before the bill can move to Congress. These missing reports fall to agencies that are under PP control, such as the the Council of Attorneys or the Health Ministry.

Gádor Joya, president of Derecho a Vivir (Right to Live), one of the largest anti-abortion groups in the country, admits to a spike in their activism due to slow government action.

“The government has really delayed the bill presentation, and now it’s keeping it inside a drawer,” she says. “We don’t know how long [the bill] is going to be sleeping safe and sound in there. Let’s hope it doesn’t get parked for good.”

In the meantime, Joya’s group has organized an exhibition near Congress with graphic images of pregnancies and abortion procedures. The show is called “The Other Holocaust.”

Anti-abortion groups will also disseminate the names of politicians who oppose abortion, same-sex marriage and sex education at schools, as a way to encourage voters to support them in the European elections.

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