The abortion debate deepens political fissures at a difficult time
Those European nations, including Britain, that have achieved something like a consensus on the issue of abortion are the fortunate ones. In others, and notably those with a strong Roman Catholic tradition, it is a perennially divisive and traumatic issue. When overlaid on to separatism and a deeply damaged economy it has the potential to retard the rebuilding of national identity and cohesion.
So it is proving in Spain, where a new law severely restricting the right to abortion is wending its way through parliament, at the cost of bitter controversy and resistance… The mystery is why the current conservative government in Madrid chose this issue and this time to pick a fight with its progressive and radical opponents. It is also no secret that the Catholic Church, shaken by the revolution enacted by the socialists, has encouraged and campaigned for legislative action. It may also be a tactic to mobilise socially conservative voters to back the Popular Party in May’s European elections. Whatever the short-term advantage, the government’s move is deeply damaging to Spain’s longer-term prospects…
The dilemma Madrid faces is not an easy one to resolve. Both this government and its predecessor can be blamed for using abortion as a politically expedient card to play, proposing extreme legal solutions to a deeply complex and morally perplexing challenge. There are no right answers, and the Spanish people must try to find a way of living with competing claims like others have. What is unhelpful to such an outcome is when the issue of abortion and religion becomes closely aligned with party politics, such as has happened in America, where the religious right has captured the Republicans, much to their mutual detriment and the degradation of US politics as a whole
From a leader in ‘The Independent’, London