02/03/2014 10:09 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Tens of Thousands Protest the Erosion of Abortion Rights in Spain


Will I have children? And if so, when? And how many? are questions that not every woman has the luxury of asking herself despite the fact that the modern world provides many tools that allow for such decisions. Choosing the terms on which we give our bodies over to reproduction at the expense of other pursuits in our lives therefore becomes a fundamental right. Without it, we can in no way be equal to men in society because we are subject to a life-changing, biological duty that they do not have. This makes abortion a foundational political issue for women and one that tends to produce a visceral response.

Tens of thousands of protesters hit the streets of Madrid on Saturday to defend this right and show their opposition to the recent anti-choice bill introduced by Spain's right-of-center ruling Popular Party. The "purple tide" of protesters was in high spirits shouting "¡Sí se puede!" (Yes we can!) and "¡Vamos, escucha, esto es nuestra lucha! (Let's go, listen up, this is our fight!)

Unlike in the U.S. where the war on women's right to choose is being played out insidiously at the state level, Spain's Popular Party went for a full-frontal assault on this right because they can. This is because they currently hold what's called an "absolute majority" in the Spain's parliament, the Congress of Deputies, meaning that the party has a wide enough majority to legislate without the need to garner any support from other parties.

The bill, presented by Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón, restricts abortion to two scenarios (1) rape victims up to 12 weeks pregnant and (2) up to 22 weeks when the pregnancy poses a serious risk to the physical or mental health of the mother. Gallardón, a politician who in the past has cultivated an image as a moderate, is the face of this law, with many protesters calling for his resignation. Instead of directing their anger at Spain's President Mariano Rajoy, chants included "¡No al ley de Gallardon, en mi coño mando yo!" (No to Gallardon's law, I rule in my vagina!). Some creative protesters made this giant "Gallar-dracula" emblazoned with "Al feto respeto, a la mujer someto" (to the fetus, respect, to the women, submission).


This bill comes at a time when the fractured left can use a cause to unite and rally around. And rally they have both inside and outside Spain, with over 300 groups coming together to organize the Madrid protest in addition to collective action taking place throughout Spain since the bill's announcement. Solidarity protests have taken place throughout Europe including London, Paris, Brusels, Rome and Milan.

Within the European Union, abortion rights is a decision left up to the individual states and a recent initiative to make it a European right failed. But that's not deterring those who value women's right to choose. Just this week, the Popular Party in Madrid announced that it will delay the privatization of hospitals in the face of sustained protests and advocacy. Spain's citizens are learning first-hand that public opinion matters and collective action can produce concrete results.