Thursday, January 10, 2008

Madrid Pledges Protection To Abortion Clinics Striking Over Attacks

Madrid - The Spanish capital Madrid has pledged police protection to abortion clinics striking over what they describe as judicial insecurity, attacks and harassment, press reports said Thursday. Abortion clinics all over Spain are staging an unprecedented strike this week, forcing an estimated 2,000 women to postpone their abortions.

Soledad Mestre, a government delegate to Madrid, said local abortion clinics could solicit police protection against death threats or acts involving graffiti made by ultra-conservative or neo- Nazi groups.

The strike has reportedly caused serious problems to some women, who needed to abort urgently on grounds of malformation of the foetus.

Spain's abortion law allows women to abort in the first 22 weeks of pregnancy in the case of foetal malformation, in the first 12 weeks in case of rape, and theoretically at any point if their mental or physical health is at risk.

The overwhelming majority of abortions are carried out on the basis of risk to the mother's health at private clinics.

Abortion-rights advocates want Spain to take abortion out of the legislative "grey area" by aligning laws pertaining to the procedure with the more liberal legislation in force in many other European countries, which allow abortion up to a certain stage of pregnancy without having to demonstrate a reason for it.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's Socialist government has, however, backtracked on its pledge to liberalize abortion, fearing that such a policy would deepen its rift with the Catholic Church two months before the general elections.

Abortion came under discussion after police raids at a string of Barcelona clinics suspected of carrying out abortions illegally even in the final months of pregnancy.

Many of the patients are believed to have been "abortion tourists" from other European countries. Several doctors were detained, and about 40 patients also came under a judicial investigation.

Two Madrid clinics were meanwhile closed over administrative irregularities.

The events prompted a wave of minor attacks, such as phone threats or smashed windows, against abortion clinics, which are also complaining over unnecessary administrative inspections.

Many women now felt that abortion was something illegal, said Eva Rodriguez Armario of the abortion clinics' association Acai.

Spain allowed abortion in 1985, and the number of voluntary terminations of pregnancy has doubled to about 100,000 annually over the past decade.

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