Spain’s lower house advances bill that would criminalize pro-life witness near abortion clinics

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Madrid, Spain, Sep 22, 2021 / 17:00 pm The lower house of Spain’s legislature voted Tuesday to take up consideration of a bill proposed by the ruling Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party that would criminalize “harassment” of women entering abortion clinics.

Spain’s lower house advances bill that would criminalize pro-life witness near abortion clinics

The Congress of Deputies advanced the bill by a Sept. 21 vote of 199 to 144, with two abstentions. Only the two largest opposition parties, the People’s Party and Vox, voted against it.

The bill was introduced May 21 by the PSOE’s coalition. It would criminalize “harassing women going to clinics for the voluntary interruption of pregnancy.” Anyone promoting, favoring, or participating in demonstrations near abortion clinics would be subject to penalties.

Penalties for what would be deemed harassment would include jail terms of three months to a year, or community service from 31 to 80 days. Depending on circumstances, an individual could also be barred from a particular location for between six months and three years.

In the exposition of motives for introducing the bill, the PSOE characterized the “harassment” of pro-life witness at abortion clinics as “approaching women with photographs, model fetuses, and proclamations against abortion … the objective is for the women to change their decision through coercion, intimidation, and harassment.”

The socialist parliamentary group said it “considers it essential to guarantee a safety zone” around abortion clinics.

During debate on the bill, María Teresa Angulo Romero of the People’s Party criticized it for penalizing “fundamental rights such as freedom of speech or assembly because what underlies is a sectarian limitation of rights because of the ideas of those who exercise them,” reported ABC, a Spanish daily.

“You don’t want to penalize supposed coercion, if so, your proposal would be unnecessary because the Penal Code already covers coercion. You want to prohibit the right of assembly or free speech where and by whom you don’t like,” the PP lawmaker said.

She also spoke of the “dubious constitutionality” of the bill that seeks to “criminalize the right to peaceful assembly or free speech” of pro-life groups “just because they don’t think like” the socialist government of Pedro Sánchez.

Vox member María Ruiz Solás said that the PSOE is “legislating at the behest of abortion clinics” and “criminalizing” pro-life groups whose “only wish is for women to know that there are other options than abortion,” according to ABC.

“Have the gatherings of the pro-life groups prevented women from entering the clinics? If this happened, there would be complaints and convictions and there aren’t any. Not one. Defending an idea is not coercion,” she asserted.

Sara Giménez Giménez of Citizens, another opposition party, pointed out that the proposal doesn’t have “enough legal certainty” and stressed that abortion “is not a constitutional right,” although in the end her party voted in its favor.

One outreach the bill could ban is Life Ambulance, which offers “a free ultrasound in front of the abortion clinic to show the mother the reality of her child and the heartbeat of her baby.”

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