- Trying to square the circle
The opening days of the Synod on the Family have revealed distinct differences of opinion between the participants. How can their commitment to church teaching be matched with compassion for those who struggle with it?
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In a move that has delighted pro-life campaigners, Spain's conservative Government has agreed to ban the option of abortion on demand. The Government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy ruled to roll back reforms made under the previous Socialist Government that allowed terminations without restrictions until the fourteenth week of pregnancy. A draft bill approved by the cabinet on Friday will ensure that abortion is only allowed in the case of rape, serious foetal deformity or if the pregnancy presents a grave mental or physical health risk to the mother. “This was in our electoral programme,” Mr Rajoy said in Brussels, where he was attending an EU summit.
An indication of the number of lives that might be saved by the measure came from the Asociación de Clínicas Acreditadas para la Interrupción del Embarazo, the umbrella group that represents 98 per cent of the country's abortion clinics. According to the organisation, recent data it had analysed showed that of the 118,000 or so abortions that took place in 2011, nearly 100,000 would be illegal under the expected changes. The organisation said that the changes could lead to "abortion tourism", with women travelling to other countries in Europe to end their pregnancies.
Changes to the law have long been championed by Spain's Catholic Church. Madrid's Archbishop, Antonio María Rouco Varela, had called for an urgent reform of the 2010 law, saying it had "led to a rise in the number of abortions to terrifying levels".
Abortion was one of the issues that helped propel the People's Party into power, said Benigno Blanco, president of the Foro Español de la Familia [Spanish Family Forum]. "Now it is time for the Government to complete its electoral promises regarding this law. There is popular demand to do this."
Pro-abortion groups saw the legislation as a historic step backwards. “The changes represent a reversal of our right to decide, which will take us back to another era,” said Feminist Coordinator, an umbrella organisation for women’s rights groups, in a statement.