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Ombudsman ‘concerned’ that most doctors refuse abortions

Spanish mediator Ángel Gabilondo “warned” that in Madrid abortions are not performed in public hospitals, a situation that “should be analyzed”. / Credit: Congress of Deputies (Spain)

Denver Newsroom, July 14, 2022 / 8:00 p.m. (CNA).

The Spanish ombudsman, Ángel Gabilondo, expressed concern that doctors exercising their right to conscientious objection, there are places in the country where no abortions are carried out in public medical establishments.

Gabilondo’s comments were revealed in a letter he sent to Mónica García, a left-leaning congresswoman in the Legislative Assembly of the Autonomous Region of Madrid, which was leaked to El País newspaper on July 12.

El País, whose editorial line supports abortion, pointed out that Gabilondo, a member of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party and former education minister, “warns that in the community of Madrid, voluntary terminations of pregnancy (that is, i.e. abortions) are not performed in public hospitals”.

Gabilondo also says that this situation “should be subject to evaluation and analysis”.

Gabilondo recognizes in his letter that conscientious objection is an individual right but considers that its application cannot prevent a woman from having an abortion in public establishments.

The president of the College of Physicians of Madrid, Manuel Martínez-Sellés, after reading the article in El País, said that health professionals were “surprised” by the intentions of the mediator.

In a statement to ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language sister news agency, Martínez-Sellés said doctors in the Spanish capital “are surprised at how they intend to force the performance of abortions in some public hospitals.

He said that “in many public hospitals in the community of Madrid, the reason why abortions are not performed is that all their gynecologists have unanimously declared themselves conscientious objectors”.

Martínez-Sellés also criticized “the intention to force the practice of abortions in these hospitals if all the gynecologists have declared themselves conscientious objectors”.

According to him, “the only way to do this would be to either force these professionals to go against their right to conscientious objection, or to specifically hire non-objecting gynecologists, which would constitute unlawful discrimination against against objecting gynecologists”.

The ombudsman’s letter is based on the case of a woman who, in 2020, went to a public hospital in Madrid to request an abortion due to complex medical circumstances and was referred to a private facility due to conscientious objection by physicians.

Martínez-Sellés clarified that this case was studied “by the college’s ethics commission, and the actions of the gynecologists who had the patient and made the decisions regarding the case were not considered as anything. is subject to sanction or any inappropriate action on the part of the ethical point of view”.

Constitutional right ?

The National Association for the Defense of the Right to Conscientious Objection of Biomedical Personnel (ANDOC) stressed in a statement to ACI Prensa that the constitutional function of the ombudsman is “to defend the fundamental rights and public freedoms of citizens by supervising the activity of the administrations”.

The association recalls that abortion “is not a fundamental right; it does not appear in our magna carta or in any universally recognized declaration of rights”, while the right to conscientious objection is included in the Spanish Constitution, “closely linked to the freedom of conscience and ideology recognized in article 16 and that all citizens have, that he must serve and protect.

“We believe that the mediator will also be willing to listen to objectors and health professionals in general and so many women who, for lack of means, are forced to have an abortion,” added ANDOC.

“We want to think that he is not acting at the request of (another) party, which is completely contrary to the high responsibility that his function entails,” the association said.

Abortion in Spain

The reality is that in Spain abortion has been considered a (non-fundamental) right since 2010 and is included in the list of public medical services.

However, since the adoption of the first abortion law in 1985, the vast majority of abortions – not only in Madrid but also nationally – are carried out by the private abortion industry. Between 2011 and 2020 alone, according to data from the Ministry of Health, between 84.5% and 96.6% of abortions were performed in private facilities each year, the vast majority of them in outpatient centers.

These figures are due to the fact that the vast majority of medical professionals exercise their right to conscientiously object to taking the life of an unborn human being.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language press partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.