I´m going to start with a common phrase in Spanish, sin pelos en la lengua, without hairs on my tongue. It means to speak clearly, directly and sincerely – whether it bothers people or not. If you did have hairs on your tongue, it would be like trying to explain yourself with a fat quarter of harris tweed in your mouth.
I´m going to try to be … er … effectual.
Gallardón (literally “big, gallant, splendid guy”).
The Spanish Minister of (Divine) Justice, Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón, has decided that fetal malformación should not be a cause for abortion.
Bolstered by a landslide victory last November and a majority in the Parliament (that bar room brawling floor on which Spaniards´ civil and human rights are currently being jodidos, ie. screwed) Gallardón intends to reform the 2010 Abortion Act passed by Zapatero´s Socialist government.
This Act was in keeping with fundamental sexual and reproductive health rights established by the World Health Organization and was based on a time-limit model favoured by most European countries. It made the provision that, should severe fetal anomalies be detected, there would be no time limit for abortion.
Now, however, Gallardón deems it expedient that Spanish women bring greater numbers of severely disabled children into the earthly paradise that is Spain.
And we can count ourselves lucky that he isn´t up for totally banning abortion, as it has been for the greater part of modern Spanish history.
Of course, Gallardón has his supporters. In a Telecinco debate recently, two gym-toned, siliconed, cabin-tanned, blonde-dyed, designer-clad PP groupies defended the Minister´s proposal before an opponent of the Act called Maribel García.
Despite legislation permitting a termination up to 22 weeks, Maribel was not offered the option of a termination despite many markers during pregnancy indicating that her child would be born so severely disabled he would be incompatible con la vida.
Had she had that option, she would have taken it. Her son Alejandro, now ten, has a disability of 97%. He has to be spoon-fed, is wheel-chair bound, lacks genitals, cannot speak or walk, requires 24/7 care, sleeps with an oxygen mask, suffers physical and emotional pain and has been in hospital hundreds of times.
Maribel – with her real knowledge of such extreme disability – expressed extreme dismay that termination will soon become an option denied all women in her situation. She threw cold water on the claims of the two vociferous peperas (who obviously spend their time at the beauty salon or de plató en plató, from one TV studio to another) and their much-touted “respect for life.”
In the current economic and political climate:
- the public health service is being dismantled
- the Ley de Dependencia (care for dependents) is being slashed
- wheelchair users and other disabled people are surrounded by public, physical barriers to autonomy
- the Civil War Memoria Histórica movement has been moved off the political agenda
- hundreds of people are struggling to have Church workers put on trial for stealing babies for adoption
Respect for life? Is this meant to be some kind of sick joke?
A Woman´s Right to Vamoose
Yet again, Spanish women´s hard-won rights are under attack since women are usually the first casualties of a shrinking labour market. The common strategy of conservative regimes is to force them back into the home – taking care of the very dependents created by adverse social policies. Gallardón´s proposal is an expression of this aim. He has no intrinsic interest in the fate of the disabled.
Fortunately, Gallardón´s despropósito (mad proposal) has been contested by womens´ organizations such as COMPI – (Coordinadora de Organizaciones de Mujeres Para La Participación Y La Igualdad) and by medical experts.
Javier Esparza is an eminent practitioner in the field of Infant Neuroscience. In an Open Letter, this neurosurgeon has laid out the terrible consequences of such a reform, with particular emphasis on the suffering of children with congenital nervous system malformations like hydrocephalus and spina bifida.
Esparza´s description of the suffering of severely disabled children is echoed by Gloria Muñoz, mother of Alba who only lived for seven months, in physical pain, from the rare condition, Spinal Muscular Atrophy. She states that if she was pregnant with such a severely disabled child again she would go abroad to have an abortion.
And this is really the issue. The Minister knows that Spanish women who do not want to continue with such pregnancies – and can afford to fly to London – will be forced into the so-called “abortion tourism” that was rife during the dictatorship.
Women who support Gallardón out of party political, rather than humanitarian, motives are particularly hypocritical. How many of them will be sacrificing their comfortable lives to the care of a dependent? No, they´ll be off to London for a termination and a designer handbag.
Gallardón´s proposal is not about morality or spirituality but hierarchy, power and control. It´s not about babies and cute, cuddly toys but enslaving women and men to the care of individuals to the extent that the struggle for the material requirements of life annihilates their energy for culture, thought or opinion – especially political opinion.
It is disempowerment, especially since the Spaniards now living with such difficult conditions receive little or no support from a government which purportedly defends their rights.
Read a reply to the neurosurgeon´s Open Letter from Marta Mezquita, a lawyer with a complex disability. She raises many points with Esparza, yet still defends the right of women to choose a termination.
What I really hate about big, strong Gallardón´s idea is that it is the political use of a tortured and twisted Christianity based on the veneration of suffering and the acceptance of a victim status.
What is truly appalling is that he is never going to find himself in the situation he seeks to impose on others. Far from brave, it´s cowardice in the extreme, especially since it´s aimed at a collective – women- he regards as weak.
It´s the Dark Ages, a macho ibérico, self-serving and paternalistic strategy aimed at aborting the gains of the Spanish transition to democracy.
And it leaves us all politically disabled.