Vatican sadden by Spanish Socialist abortion plans
The Catholic Church expresses sorrow at Spain government’s plans to expand abortion rights in the country.8 September 2008
MADRID -- The Catholic Church is saddened at the government's plans to expand abortion rights in Spain, although it will wait to hear the details before attacking the draft legislation.
Although the ruling body of Spanish bishops has decided not to make a statement until the government explains the bill in more detail, a Vatican representative said that Spain's plans are the cause of sorrow in Rome.
"Such a project makes me sad because it is not based on the notion of life as a precious gift that begins with conception," said Cardinal William Joseph Levada, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, formerly known as the Inquisition. Levada's predecessor at the head of this body was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who later became Pope Benedict XVI.
At the heart of the dispute is the government's plan to reform a 23-year-old abortion law that currently allows women to terminate their pregnancies in cases of rape, foetus malformation and risk of physical or psychological damage to the mother.
In practice, 90 percent of abortions are carried out on the grounds of psychological trauma, the vaguest of the legally valid conditions.
The reform aims to bring this law closer to other European countries where free abortion is allowed within specific timeframes, usually between 10 and 12 weeks of gestation.
However, Deputy Prime Minister María Teresa Fernández de la Vega last weekend sought to downplay the notion of free abortion, saying that the new legislation only seeks to improve the current law "and make it clear in which cases it is possible to terminate the pregnancy and in which cases it is not".
Attack on hypocrisy
Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero also spoke out against critics of reforming the abortion law, saying: "I reject the hypocrisy of those who want to divide our country on account of a better pregnancy termination law."
Although the Vatican's official doctrine regarding abortion has not changed, the tone has.
In 1984, when the Socialist government led by Felipe González introduced the current law, which decriminalised abortion in three cases, Rome threatened to excommunicate the entire Socialist Group in Congress. The Spanish bishops said that anyone who voted in favour of such a law would be "a murderer".
These days, however, the Pope's spokesmen, including Levada, are asking for time to reflect and voice an opinion.
[El Pais / Juan G. Bedoya / Expatica]