Madrid, Spain – An international director of 40 Days for Life said a bill proposed by Spain’s ruling Socialist Workers’ Party that would criminalize âharassmentâ of women entering abortion centers is a âthreat to democracyâ.
Tomislav Cunovic, director of 40 Days for Life for International Affairs, told ACI Prensa, CNA’s sister news agency in Spanish, that “it is a fundamental right that people can go out on the streets, meet each other and express their opinion “.
âThis new law criminalizes pro-life people who peacefully gather and pray outside abortion clinics. This law interferes with these fundamental rights and freedoms which are guaranteed by the Spanish Constitution and by international conventions, such as the European Convention on Human Rights â, he stressed.
âThe people of 40 Days for Life pray peacefully, they don’t talk to pregnant women, nor to those who work in the clinics. We are outside praying, silently witnessing that every life has its dignity, “he explained, and stressed that although with this bill” it seems they want to protect pregnant women, no one does not speak of unborn children, who must also be protected because they have the right to life, they have dignity.
The law project was presented on May 21 by the PSOE coalition. It would criminalize âthe harassment of women who go to clinics for voluntary termination of pregnancyâ. Anyone promoting, promoting or participating in demonstrations near abortion centers would be subject to sanctions.
The penalties for what would be considered harassment would include prison terms of three months to one year, or community service of 31 to 80 days. Depending on the circumstances, a person may also be denied access to a particular place for six months to three years.
In the explanatory memorandum to the bill’s introduction, the PSOE described the âharassmentâ of pro-life witnesses in abortion clinics as âapproaching women with photographs, model fetuses and proclamations against abortionâ¦ the goal is for women to change their decision. through coercion, intimidation and harassment.
The Socialist parliamentary group said it “considers it essential to guarantee a safe zone” around abortion clinics.
Cunovic called the bill “overkill” because “it interferes too much with rights and it’s unclear as it doesn’t work with specific concepts, but rather leaves a lot of room.”
“It is not clear what is prohibited, it gives the police a lot of leeway to criminalize people,” he said.
In addition, Cunovic said that this bill aims to “threaten people with psychological warfare” because “it is no longer necessary to do an objectively wrong thing to be punished, but rather it enters a subjective level where it is enough that one person feels offended for the other person to be punished.
40 Days for Life’s director of international affairs pointed out that this is “a contradiction to rational laws, as the place is starting to open up for” I feel bad because you are looking at me in the wrong way meaning and you can end up in jail for that. “You have to get back to an objective level, indeed. People praying in the streets don’t touch or talk to women.”
âThey pray quietly, but this law says that women can feel bad about their presence. You are therefore entering a subjective and conflictual zone, because you are dealing with a fiction that your gaze can make me uncomfortable. It’s a thought crime, it’s dangerous to play this game of thinking about what’s on your mind and judging yourself for it, âhe said.
Cunovic also warned of the danger to democracy posed by laws like this, because âtoday the voices of pro-life people are silenced, but tomorrow this law could prohibit something else. You might say, âAs of now, we don’t like this particular option. With this, we are killing the democratic discourse and it is a great danger for democracy.
However, the 40 Days for Life leader still hopes there will be judges who “apply the law and protect the citizens” as those who stand outside abortion clinics “are not criminals, they are citizens who pay their taxes, who work and have the right to go out and be in public space. Because in this multicultural and pluralist society, everyone has their right and their space, âhe underlined.
Finally, he said that âit’s surprising that you can stand up for whatever interests you want, but the pro-lifers have to keep their mouths shut. You cannot say this or that on this matter because someone is offended. It is a form of persecution against the Christian voice and Christian values.
The Congress of Deputies voted to examine the bill in September by 199 votes to 144, with two abstentions. Only the two largest opposition parties, the People’s Party and Vox, voted against.
In recent years, several localities have considered or adopted âbuffer zonesâ around abortion facilities that limit freedom of expression in protected areas.
The Northern Ireland Assembly is considering such a proposal, and the Scottish Green Party has urged passage of one.
Proposals for buffer zones around abortion centers across England and Wales were rejected as disproportionate by the then UK Home Secretary in September 2018, after finding that most protests against abortion are peaceful and passive.
Typical activities of those protesting outside abortion centers in England and Wales “include praying, displaying banners and distributing leaflets,” noted Sajid Javid.
In England, a buffer zone was imposed by Ealing Council in west London around a Marie Stopes abortion clinic in April 2018. The zone prevents any pro-life gathering or speech, including prayer, about 100 meters from the establishment.
The Ealing buffer zone was cited by Javid as an example of a local government using civil law “to restrict harmful protest activity”, rather than a national policy.