Spain’s right wing Partido Popular leader and Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, has achieved a notable feat. He has managed to have all the socialist parties in Europe declare war on his government.
The subject that is stoking anger across the continent is the decision of the PP Government to repeal PSOE’s abortion legislation and to introduce its own bill that is seen as being discriminatory against women. The European socialists under Party of European Socialists (PES) have answered the call from PSOE to support them in fighting this legislation. PES is made up of all the major socialist parties in Europe including the UK’s Labour Party.
Rajoy cannot even count on it being a left versus right confrontation so that the European parties of the centre right will come to his aid. Indeed members of the Partido Popular in Parliament, including the outspoken PP MP and former minister Celia Villalobos whose husband is a Rajoy guru, are against the move. Four PP presidents of regional governments in Spain oppose this legislation, “La ley de Gallardón”, being introduced by the minister of the same name. Two PP mayors, both doctors, have publicly questioned the law. True to form Rajoy is stamping down on any voiced opposition from his party’s ranks.
There have already been protests outside the Spanish Embassy in Paris and as the campaign grows expect more of the same as people across Europe publically denounce Rajoy. The PP has agreed to ban women from opting freely for abortions, outraging pro-choice campaigners who say the move will take the country back to the 1980s.
In the majority of European countries, abortion is freely available in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy. After that abortion is only allowed if there are serious risks to the mother or the foetus through illness or severe anomalies. The PP seeks a far more restrictive set of regulations: prohibiting the mother from having any part in the decision making and prohibiting abortions in many cases of serious malformations or foetal anomalies.
The PES president, Sergei Stanishev stated: “This law by Spain’s Conservative Government is not against abortion, this is a law against women. I will do everything possible to mobilise PES Member Parties to lend their weight to this fight for the rights of women, in Spain and elsewhere in Europe.” He added: “women’s rights will be a central issue in the European election campaign”.
Stanishev thanked PES vice president Elena Valenciano of Spain’s socialist PSOE for the letter calling for support from PES against the Spanish PP Government’s proposal to drastically curtail a woman’s right to choose.
PES Women’s President Zita Gurmai added: “all of Europe’s progressive forces should join us in making this stand and fight for the right of women to choose. We must fight to protect the sensible and compassionate decisions that have been made over the last years on fundamental women’s rights in Europe”.
When PSOE brought in its very liberal legislation the PP made it clear it opposed it, tried to ban it through the courts and hence it is no surprise it has brought forward its own regressive law. Needless to say the Spanish Catholic Church, always an ally of the right, has played a major part behind the scenes.
Abortion may be the issue but what it demonstrates is Spain’s slide into an authoritarian State where the people’s rights across a broad spectrum of life are being eroded. There would be some irony indeed if the famous Rajoy water cannon, purchased to keep his people off the streets under his repressive internal security law, was first used in Madrid against a Europe-wide co-ordinated protest against the new abortion law. Make no mistake Spain’s Partido Popular government is not a conservative government but a neo-Francoist government growing more repressive by the day.
(Photo: PSOE’s Elena Valenciano with PES Women President Zita Gurmai)
(The above article was published in the London Progressive Forum on January 15 2014).