Courtcase against Spanish government for blocking abortion website during COVID19
Spain, 27 January 2021 – Women on Web, with legal support from Women’s Link Worldwide, has filed a lawsuit at the Spanish National Court after the Spanish government blocked their website in early 2020. The site includes information on sexual and reproductive rights and access to safe abortion in Spain.
The organizations argue that the Spanish State is failing to comply with its obligations to provide accurate information on sexual and reproductive rights and violates the article 10 of the ECHR, the Freedom of expression by actively censoring an organization that offers complete, accurate information on access to legal and safe abortion in Spain.
“The Spanish State has an obligation to provide accurate, complete, and timely information on abortion care. Because of its failure to do so, many women have to turn to international websites to learn how to get access to safe abortion services in Spain” explains Women’s Link Worldwide attorney Estefanny Molina.
Obstacles to access abortion care particularly effect the most vulnerable people, such as poor women, single mothers, victims of violence, women who live far from clinics, and migrant women with irregular immigration status. During the COVID-19 pandemic, barriers to access to safe abortion have increased not just in Spain but also some other countries in Europe. Since the start of the pandemic, 34% of women who were able to reach out to Women on Web depite the censorship, indicated that they could not access local abortion care because of COVID-19.
“Instead of censoring Women on Web, Spain could have implemented telemedical abortion services like the UK, Ireland and France did, to make sure women can still access a safe abortion care during COVID-19.” notes Verónica Fernández, Women on Web’s spokesperson in Spain.
Lack of information on abortion in Spain
In Spain, there is a serious lack of high-quality official information that explains in simple language the steps to obtain an abortion, time limits, or requirements, and information is not available in languages other than Spanish. Many medical and administrative staff in public health facilities are not aware of the protocols to follow in order to obtain an abortion and give incorrect instructions or even deny access to abortion, particularly for migrant women with irregular immigration status or temporary residents. Many public hospitals all over Spain do not perform abortions because of conscientious objection. According to figures from the Ministry of Health, between 2010 and 2018, 91% of abortions were performed at licensed private clinics.
Finally, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Spanish government has not launched an informational campaign to let women know how to obtain access to abortion during the crisis or taken any measures to reduce the need to travel in order to reduce exposure to infection (except in Catalonia and Galicia).
What can you do?
A step in the right direction was taken on Januray 20 th, when the Spanish Ministery of Health opened a public consultation for changing the regulations so that women who are less than 9 weeks can access medical abortion services in primary health centers. We would like to encourage everybody to send your support before February 4, 2021 through the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can use this standard text for the email: " I support the availability of medication abortions in primary care centers to help lift barriers to abortion care in Spain, in line with the policy advice of the WHO and developments in other European countries."
For more information:
- Major barriers to abortion in Spain: https://bit.ly/3iqPsrq
- Stories of women who have contacted Women on Web