Sunday, December 4

Jail for abortion clinic harassers

Protest outside an abortion clinic in Northern Ireland. / Reuters

The Senate today converts the harassment of pregnant women and health workers by “pro-life” pickets into a crime punishable by three months to one year in prison

Alfonso Torres

The pickets, the prayers, the disqualifications, the banners, the emotional blackmail or the attacks on the privacy of pregnant women and toilets around clinics authorized to perform abortions are over. Or, at least, they will no longer be criminally free.

The plenary session of the Senate will approve this afternoon the legal reform that will allow judges to punish “pro-life” activists who harass women who have decided to voluntarily interrupt pregnancy or who obstruct the work of doctors, nurses and managers of these clinics, the professionals in charge of guaranteeing that pregnant women can exercise their right.

The reform, which today will take the path of the BOE, has no grace period. It will enter into force with its mere official publication and, therefore, the new infractions and their prison sentences can begin to be applied by the judges and courts in a matter of hours. days, maximum.

Only PP and Vox oppose toughening the sentences for these ultra-Catholic activists, sanctions that the judges will begin to apply immediately

The entire parliamentary left, the nationalists and Citizens have joined forces to introduce in the Penal Code the new crime that will punish any harassment of women and professionals by self-styled “pro-life” activists. Coercion will be prosecuted with or without a complaint from the pregnant woman. The objective is to shield their freedom, security and privacy and the free exercise of their sexual and reproductive rights. The reform, promoted by the PSOE, which was initially restricted to greater legal protection for pregnant women, was completed in its parliamentary process with an amendment agreed with United We Can, ERC, Citizens and PNV that considered obstruction of staff work to be equally criminal of the clinics.

Only the PP and its electoral partners (UPN and Foro) and Vox have opposed the imprisonment. The popular ones see an act of prior censorship, a “gag” on innocent people and the intention of “the ultra-left” to impose the law of silence. The extreme right classifies these clinics as “extermination centers” and the reform as an initiative that favors “those who profit by eliminating human beings.” The Assembly of Associations for Life, Dignity and Liberty, which agrees with the arguments of PP and Vox, considers that the reform is unconstitutional.

Restraining order

The reform consists of a single article that creates a subtype of the crime of coercion, the obstruction of abortion, which will be punished with imprisonment from three months to one year or, at the discretion of the judge, with the alternative penalty of 31 to 80 days of work. for the benefit of the community. Those convicted, depending on the circumstances of the facts, may receive an additional sentence of restraint. They will be prohibited from going to certain places (in this case the surroundings of abortion clinics) for a period of six months to three years. However, these two will not be the only penalties that the author of the new crime can receive. To these punishments would be added those that “could correspond to the crimes in which the acts of harassment had taken place.”

The one that in days will become article 172 quater of the Penal Code, indicates in its first point that prison sentences and removal will be imposed on those who, “in order to hinder the exercise of the right to voluntary interruption of pregnancy, harass a woman through annoying, offensive, intimidating or coercive acts that undermine their freedom.

The pickets described in the preamble of the legal text itself seem to fit within this broad casuistry, but also the practice of ultrasound scans in vehicles or the offering of coffees, which then prevent anesthesia and intervention. The article, in its second point, adds that “the same penalties will be imposed on whoever, in the manner described in the previous section, harasses the doctors or directors of the centers authorized to interrupt pregnancy with the aim of hindering the exercise of his profession or position.

UN claim

The reform responds to a recommendation by the Ombudsman to create “safe zones” that guarantee women’s free access to these health centers, to the guidelines issued by the World Health Organization, to the repeated complaints of the pregnant women themselves and to the striking data revealed by a report by the Association of Accredited Clinics for the Interruption of Pregnancy, which perform 90% of legal abortions, prepared from interviews with hundreds of patients.

The investigation concluded that nine out of ten pregnant women who went to the abortion centers experienced “harassment” . Moreover, two out of three felt threatened by the actions of the “pro-lifers” who, according to what they said, rebuked, insulted and coerced them to change their decision and harassed them with proclamations, photographs, ultrasounds or toy fetuses.

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