Spain: Region withdraws order to offer heartbeats before abortion

MADRID (AP) — A Spanish regional chief has poured cold water on an announcement by a far-right member of his cabinet that doctors would have to give women the chance to listen to fetal heartbeats before any birthing procedures. abortion.

The conservative president of Castilla y León, Alfonso Fernández Mañueco, said on Monday that the central region of Spain would allow women seeking an abortion to request such procedures, including four-dimensional ultrasound scans or psychological counseling. But he said doctors will not actively offer them, as a leading member of the regional ruling coalition previously announced.

“Doctors will not be forced to do anything, pregnant women will not be forced to do anything,” Fernández Mañueco said.

The change in the protocols of the regional public health services was initially announced last week by the regional vice president, Juan García-Gallardo, a member of the far-right Vox party that supports the conservative Popular Party in power of Fernández Mañueco.

Vox is one of the youngest far-right European parties and shares an ultra-conservative agenda with other European actors such as Hungarian President Viktor Orban’s Fidesz or Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy.

Garcia-Gallardo’s comments created a stir, throwing the divisive issue into political debate on the eve of major local and regional elections scheduled for the end of May, and a general election before the end of the year.

In Spain’s highly decentralized system, each of the country’s 17 regions manages public health services, although national laws and regulations must be respected.

4D ultrasounds and heartbeat sound procedures are services that women can opt into in existing pregnancy protocols in the region, but never as a default response to a request for an abortion procedure.

“It is clear to me how altering the order of the factors can become direct and indirect coercion,” Fernández Mañueco said in a televised press conference on Monday.

The left-wing government of President Pedro Sánchez has tried to stop the plan of the region’s authorities to go ahead with the review of medical protocols.

“The Spanish Government will put all the resources at its disposal to defend the freedom of women and their right to terminate their pregnancies in the terms provided for in current legislation,” read a statement from the office of the President of the Government.

Spanish law allows abortion up to the 14th week of pregnancy. The country’s parliament has recently taken several measures to strengthen the right to abortion throughout the country.


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