Foam rubber vagina in Malaga’s main street.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy had hoped that the ruling PP’s first national executive committee meeting of 2014, held on Wednesday this week behind closed doors, would show a united front in favour of the new abortion law, or at least that the controversy could be contained and not end in a party rift. He arrived at the meeting telling the committee: “My discourse is going to be about the economy and Ihope yours is too” but there was too much opposition within the party for him to get his way. Four presidents of autonomous communities insisted that concessions were needed so that the law wouldn’t go through with the sole support of the PP, while the Deputy Congressional Speaker Celia Villalobos demanded a free vote on the bill.
The main concession the presidents want to see concerns the right to abort in cases of severe foetal malformation, which was included in the 1985 law to which the current proposal largely reverts, but not in the one proposed now by Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón.
The new law, which was approved by the cabinet last month and will go to Congress after the European elections on May 25th, has come under fierce criticism from human rights organisations, feminist groups, health experts and political parties. In Malaga last Saturday, a protest was held in the Plaza de la Constitución led by the ‘Marea Violeta’ (Violet Tide) and ‘Asamblea Antipatriarcal’ groups which regularly meet in the city centre to protest against cuts and other government measures. Last weekend they carried a vagina made of foam rubber and messages such as ‘Mi cuerpo es mío, yo decido’ (‘My body is mine, I decide’). One demonstrator, a member of the ‘Plataforma Violencia Cero’ (‘Zero Violence Platform’) explained to SUR that they want the abortion laws to remain as they are. “When abortion isn’t legal, thousands of women die because of illegal abortions”, she said.
Another symbol appearing in the streets of Malaga and on religious buildings alludes to this same outcome of illegal abortion practices. Alongside the slogan ‘Saca tus rosarios de mis ovarios’ (‘Keep your rosaries away from my ovaries’) protesters have painted the shape of coat hangers with the message ‘Nunca más’ (‘Never again’).
Another group in Nerja, going under the name of ‘María del Rosario y sus ovarios’ (‘Mary of the Rosary and her ovaries’), has claimed responsibility for graffiti daubed on a house in the town on New Year’s Day. In this case, the violet coloured symbol which they say represents a rosary in the shape of ovaries appeared with the slogan ‘Aborto Ruiz-Gallardón’ underneath.
The house belongs to the Utrera Molina family and the Minister of Justice, Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón, who is married to one of José Utrera’s daughters and spent time there over the Christmas and new year holiday.
Five different paintings appeared on the walls early on January 1st but they were apparently not reported to the police or Civil Guard, who only found out about this particular act of vandalism when SUR made contact to ask about it.
Not all the protest groups are in favour of all the methods being used to make the pro-choice point. When graffiti appeared on several religious buildings in Malaga, the ‘Plataforma Violencia Cero’ - which brings together a number of women’s rights movements - spoke out against this way of delivering a message.
Rebel PP member Celia Villalobos asks for free vote
Deputy Congressional Speaker and former Food and Health Minister and Mayor of Malaga Celia Villalobos has been the most outspoken PP member in her opposition to the bill, demanding at Wednesday’s committee meeting that parliamentarians and senators should have a free vote on the matter and not be bound by the party line. Prime Minister Rajoy avoided giving her an answer.
This is not the first time Villalobos has rebelled against the party. Last May, she was fined by the PP for refusing to vote on a motion brought by the opposition to try and put a stop to the Abortion Law reform being prepared at the time by her party. She had previously refused to toe the line in 2009, over an abortion issue, and in 2005 over gay marriage.