Recent protests in Spain against the passing of a restrictive abortion bill yet again highlight how the extreme far-right continue to be fed by Europe’s crippling austerity measures.
The bill, which will likely be passed by the conservative Partido Popular (People’s Party) in the coming months, will only allow termination in cases of rape or extreme risk to health, making Spain one of the least liberal European countries when it comes to female choice. It’s unsettling and paradoxical as we are constantly being told how equal and democratic our globalised economic system is in its essence – just not in practice, it seems.
Of course, the destructive divisions created by economic disparity cannot be attributed by those in power to disaster capitalism or neoliberal economics, so instead we see a reversion to good old-fashioned morals and values. They argue that somehow the failed socio-economic system is down to society losing its moral compass – many would perhaps agree, in the case of what could only be described as the psychopathic actions of those in the banking sector, many of whom laughably call themselves Christian.
However, without delving into the philosophy of societal morality, there is no doubt that religion and what it represents is still a much loved tool of the establishment to not only distract the public from the paradoxes of the system, but shackle them further with weighted conscience and delusions of a better land (presumably after we’ve suitably fucked up this one). And in countries such as Spain and Italy, scratch beneath the surface and you find those morals and traditions still heavily weighted in the ideologies of the Roman Catholic Church.
The numbers visiting church on a global scale may be in decline, but most people would readily admit they have a suitably excellent grasp of what is right and wrong, morally heinous and sublimely good. But what we maybe don’t so readily realise is how these ideas have been formulated by religious and other ruling institutions throughout the ages. Of course no one likes to admit they just follow society’s norms, or are aware that they likely have little or no independent thought – and this is precisely why issues such as divorce, gay marriage, and ethics remain on the religious and political table. They serve a purpose by playing to people’s intrinsic sense of what they believe to morally acceptable, without questioning its basis – and, of course, it helps when many of those people affected by such issues are often in the minority.
Rarely has one religious issue been played politically as much as the abortion ticket. The scientifically-refuted charge that it is the ‘murdering of a defenceless foetus’ has many far-right groups across the globe united in a belief which fundamentally advocates that a female should be denied control of her own body – and the decision left instead to the state. Much of this baby-saving political crusade is led by men, of course, which partially explains its longevity in public debate, as without having a uterus or womb it must be hard to reach a definitive decision on the matter. But, much more valuably, it is a means to reduce women’s freedom while simultaneously using heavily entrenched belief systems to demonise them, inevitably turning women against one another on one of several issues on which they should be united.
This debate has never been about the repugnance of murder, as was illustrated many illegal wars ago. This is about power – and punishment for the sins of the sexual revolution awakening women to the fact that they too can enjoy sexual experiences with no strings, and where informed sex education trumped draconian abortion laws in reducing unwanted pregnancies. There is no doubt that many women see it as their role to bear children, but many do not, and this should remain a woman’s choice – not that of a male politician.
When women in general tend to be more sympathetic, compassionate, and socially aware, many academics argue the danger of not having more females in positions of power. But when sociological studies provide evidence that childcare and cleaning take up most of the average female day, then clearly this keeps many women out of the political sphere by design – through both a lack of time to information gather, and to actively get involved. Not only that, but those women of lower socio-economic status will be even more adversely affected, being unable to afford to travel hundreds of miles to neighbouring countries where liberal abortion laws are still intact.
What is also notable here is the common misdirection of anger in times of economic disparity. Where it is left and liberal groups that should be gaining momentum, we instead see the rise of the far-right and its regressive politics. Nostalgia and history have become stronger pulls than the possibility of positive change which delves into the unknown; as a result, the reality is that the psychological pressures and effects of being forced to have an unwanted child are going to be coupled with further austerity and economic hardship. This weight will be too much for some women as they experience male power again encroaching in areas where it was only so recently forced to retreat. Societal pressures will grow, as will financial worry – increased exponentially when you live in a country that now has an unemployment rate near 30%.
Like most of the austerity measures across Europe inflicted by men in positions of power, it is women who are being disproportionately affected, either through lower wages, less work, or an increasing cost in childcare. This inevitably has led to increases in stress, depression, and domestic abuse, with many wondering where it will all end. For Spanish women, and women worldwide, being able to engage in an act intrinsic to human nature without the fear of entrapment by an unwanted pregnancy is something we were denied for decades by notions of religion and morality, to the detriment of the female psyche. This is why all women should be rallying behind those in Spain to save what little fragile freedom we have left.