Women on Web wins Supreme Court case against Spain for censoring abortion website
The website of the international organization Women on Web has been blocked in Spain since the beginning of 2020. Women's Link Worldwide, on behalf of Women on Web, filed a lawsuit to defend the right to information on the internet about sexual and reproductive rights, especially about safe abortion.
Spain, October 06, 2022 - The Supreme Court of Spain has ordered the partial unblocking of the website of the international organization Women on Web, which offers information on sexual and reproductive rights and access to safe abortion via online services. The website was completely blocked in 2020 by order of the Spanish Agency of Medicines and Health Products (AEMPS), part of the Ministry of Health, without a prior court order authorizing it.
The decision comes in the framework of the legal proceedings initiated in 2021 by Women's Link Worldwide, on behalf of Women on Web, to defend the right to information on the internet about sexual and reproductive rights, especially about safe abortion. In the judgment, the Court recognizes that the complete blocking of the website without judicial authorization should not have happened and was a disproportionate measure.
The Supreme Court considers that the information, recommendations, and opinions on sexual health and reproductive rights that Women on Web provides on its website are protected by the right to information and freedom of expression. Therefore, according to the Spanish Constitution, its website cannot be blocked without judicial authorization. The decision creates an important judicial precedent in terms of the right to information and freedom of expression on the internet, since, for the first time, it establishes that judicial authorization will always be mandatory when blocking information published on the internet.
Moreover, the Supreme Court goes further and reaffirms the importance of the organizations that promote reproductive rights, adding that they carry out an activity that has a political dimension in contemporary society.
The right to information is fundamental for women and people with gestational capacity to access sexual and reproductive rights, especially for those who are in a situation of greater vulnerability (women living in poverty and/or violence, living far from clinics or migrants in an irregular situation). The organizations denounce that many women continue to face obstacles in accessing abortion in Spain and around the world. For these individuals, being able to consult information on the Internet about how to access safe abortion is essential.
"We are pleased that the Spanish state has restored access to our website. Disinformation is spreading rapidly on the internet and digital platforms, endangering abortion access,” says Venny Ala-Siurua, Executive Director of Women on Web. “It is therefore extremely important that we protect access to evidence-based and easy-to-read information about abortion and sexual and reproductive health".
"The websites and social networks of organizations that are experts in sexual and reproductive rights must be protected because they fulfill an essential function: to provide reliable information so that those who need an abortion do not resort to unsafe methods," explains Aintzane Márquez, Senior Attorney at Women's Link Worldwide.
Laura Martínez Valero
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