Commentary: Upcoming Spanish Elections Increasingly Resemble Referendum on Abortion, Gay Marriage

By Matthew Cullinan Hoffman

SPAIN, February 5, 2008 ( - In the increasingly close race for the presidency and the parliament of Spain, abortion and "gay marriage" are becoming two of the most talked about issues, despite the fact that the country’s two major parties differ only slightly with regard to them.

The worsening economic situation may be the main contributor to the tightness of the race, but social issues seem to be a close second.  Recent scandals regarding Spain’s controversial abortion industry, as well as growing discontent with the Socialist Worker’s Party’s "gay marriage" system, have helped to create serious uncertainty about the outcome of this year’s elections.

The Socialist Worker’s Party, headed by President José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, is defending its legacy of easy abortion. This policy, however, exploded in his party’s face late last year when undercover television reporters and pro-life activists exposed the routine criminality and gruesome inhumanity of Spain’s abortion industry. Clinic personnel were subsequently arrested in Barcelona and Madrid.

In the wake of the scandals, which are still sending tremors through Spain’s body politic, the socialists have dug in their heels and have resolved to create new legal protections for Spain’s abortion clinics, and to implement "privacy" policies that are calculated to make it more difficult to prosecute clinic personnel for violating Spanish law. Although such changes would be largely cosmetic, representatives of the abortion industry have expressed approval and appreciation for the idea.

However, in the wake of horrifying images of late-term abortions shown on national television, as well as stories of fetal remains being ground up in food processors and disposed of in the sewer system, the government has apparently shelved the idea of relaxing existing regulations on abortion. That proposal has been pushed by forces within the Socialist Worker’s Party since 2004, thus far without success.

Instead, socialist Vice President María Teresa Fernández de a Vega has announced that it is time to "improve" the country’s abortion laws. "The government is not going to allow the rights of any woman who has, or who has to confront a decision so painful as that of interrupting her pregnancy, to be put in jeopardy," she said recently. 

Although the principal opposition to the socialists, the People’s Party, claims to have no plans to add any new restrictions to abortion, they are positioning themselves closer to pro-lifers, promising to vigorously enforce all existing abortion laws. Those same laws were the basis of recent prosecutions of clinic personnel in Barcelona and Madrid, who were charged with fabricating diagnoses of medical or psychological "risk," which are required to do abortions after five months of gestation.

Another creation of the socialists, "gay marriage" is also becoming a political liability for their party in traditionally Catholic Spain.  A massive pro-family rally held by the nation’s bishops recently in Madrid attracted one million people, and was seen as a blow to socialist political ambitions, although organizers denied it had a political purpose.

Feeling the pressure, the socialists have assured the public that they will do nothing further to alter the institution of marriage.

On the other side of the political divide, however, leaders of the People’s Party have made it clear that they have little intention of actually abolishing "gay marriage", although again they have positioned themselves closer to pro-family forces by speculating on the possibility of removing the label of "marriage", while maintaining the legal privileges the law provides cohabiting homosexuals.

In addition, consistent denunciations of socialist policies on the part of the bishops have caused rising tensions between Catholic Church authorities and the government.  President Zapatero seems to be so concerned about the effect of the bishops’ opposition to his policies that he has taken the unprecedented step of filing a complaint with the Vatican through his ambassador.

However, such chest-beating by anti-family forces is not likely to move Pope Benedict XVI, who himself made a televised appearance at the bishop’s pro-family demonstration in Madrid.  Zapatero and his party seem to be "reaping the whirlwind" as a result of their attacks on the traditional family.

While the range of the debate remains narrow, its intensity cannot be denied.  Whatever the outcome, Spain’s national elections in March of 2008 are likely to be won by candidates who stand on the majority side of an electorate increasingly polarized by issues of life and family.

Related coverage:

Spain’s "Conservative" Party Offers Weak Resistance to Socialist Anti-Family Policies

Spanish Socialists Attack Catholic Church in Wake of Pro-Family Demonstration

Well Over One Million Spaniards Demonstrate for Marriage and Family

Crowd Packs Barcelona Convention Center to Defend the Family

Full Abortions Shown On Spanish Television - First In History

Spanish Pro-Life Activists Seek New Investigations of Abortionists Following Arrests

Late Term Abortionist Arrested by Spain’s Police

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