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A European tragedy

· One abortion every 11 seconds ·

In a society that consumes information, statistics – behind their cold appearance – can be a concise and effective expression of human dramas. Every figure can be a symbol of a life suppressed, of a terminated pregnancy and its devastating consequences for the whole European continent, which in 2008 alone rid itself of 2,863,649 children by abortion. Of these, 1,207,646 (42 percent) were aborted in the 27 countries of the European Union where 20,635,919 abortions have been performed in the past 15 years. These chilling statistics were presented on 2 March at the European Parliament by the Institute of Family Policies (ipf), in its annual report on the incidence of abortion in Europe and in Spain.

In Brussels Eduardo Hertefelder, President of the International Federation of the IPF, warned that “Europeans and our administrations cannot look in the opposite direction when an abortion is being practised every 11 seconds”. Abortion is in fact the principal cause of death throughout the continent. The number of abortions in one year – more than 1.2 million – is equivalent to the deficit in the birth-rate of the European Union.

The alarm sounded by the IPF is amplified in Spain where the new abortion law entails a serious step backwards in the European context and also contradicts the trends in the majority of the member countries of the Union. The report cites the United Kingdom, France, Romania, Italy and Spain as the EU countries in which the abortions are recorded (a comprehensive 775,000 annually). Spain, with an annual increase of 61,965 abortions (+ 115 percent), is the country with the largest increase in the past 10 years, followed – with a large gap – by the United Kingdom (+ 16.088 abortions annually) and by Sweden (+ 7,041 abortions per year).

The statistics show a dramatic increase in abortions in 2008, placing Spain, with 115,912 abortions, ahead of Germany, with 114,484. Spain is thus almost level with Italy (121,406) and Romania (127,907), obtaining a tragic fifth place among the Union countries in which the most abortions are practised. Moreover, given the current legal approach, abortions in Spain are on the rise.

All this is contrary to the current trend on the other side of Spain's boundaries. In comparison with 2007, the number of abortions in 2008 decreased in Romania (- 9,319), Italy (- 5,156), Germany (- 2,387) and the United Kingdom (- 3,361).

Since 1985, 1,350,494 abortions have been practised in Spain. Today one abortion takes place every four-and-a-half minutes, and the law on sexual and reproductive health and on the voluntary termination of pregnancy will shortly be brought into force. The law has been defined by the IPF as “regressive, in comparison with Europe, and anti-constitutional”, since in practical terms it permits abortion until the 14th week of gestation – even for 16- and 17-year-old girls – and to the 22nd week if the mother's health is threatened or if there are serious abnormalities in the unborn child.

This legislation has predictable consequences. According to the same report, in 2015 Spain will cross the threshold of 150,000 abortions per year, thus joining France and the UK among the countries in the EU where the most abortions are performed.

This catastrophic forecast could be avoided, at least in part, with a new and equally realistic factor: Spanish public opinion, which in the past year has shown itself to be largely against abortion in the form provided by the new law. A contribution has been made to this about-turn by Derecho a Vivir [Right to Live] (dav) – a platform of the very active Hazte Oir organization. It has alerted citizens to their rights and duties, inviting them to gatherings throughout Spain and in various cities of America and Europe on Sunday, 7 March. The epicentre is located in Madrid, where España Vida Sí [“Yes” to Life Spain] was proclaimed and the fact that “in a democracy the people are heard” was remembered.

“The Government has made laws behind the Spanish people's backs”, Gádor Joya told L’Osservatore Romano. From this civic platform all possible democratic means are being used to show the widespread opposition to the law.

Furthermore, demonstrations are being organized. A year ago, half a million people thronged the streets of Madrid: last October, they amounted to a million, just as more than a million people signed the petition for the abrogation of the legislation on abortion. Hundreds of organizations across the world joined the march on 7 March and from Madrid, people will return to embracing human life, motherhood, and women.

“Spain has said that it does not want this law and will continue to say so until it is abolished”, Joya asserted. This is the message being sent to the Government, in a historic year in the battle for respect for life.

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