Accepted paper:

Mother rights or unborn rights? Laws and loopholes in Madrid's healthcare services


Beatriz Aragon Martin (UCL/ Max Planck Institute for the Study of Ethnic and Religious Diversity)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores abortion governance in Spain with ethnographic data from public health care facilities. It analyses the entanglement between women's and unborn rights and the legal loopholes used to grant access to publicly funded abortion to migrant women.

Paper long abstract:

This paper explores abortion governance in Madrid (Spain) and physician's strategies to facilitate access to funded abortion to migrant women. The paper analyses how abortion legislation is put in place in public health care facilities and how the translation of the law in everyday practice generates a specific constellation of opportunities and constraints, which accounts for the great heterogeneity in the provision of reproductive health services in this local scenario. I analyse healthcare entitlement legislation, its politics of inclusion and exclusion and its implementation in local practice, as well as the changes in abortion legislation and its turn into the rights' discourse. I present an example of healthcare professionals' practice that circumvents entitlement law to grant access to abortion to migrant women. Pregnant women, regardless of their nationality or legal status, have the right to healthcare by law in order to protect the rights of the foetus as a child-to-be. However, pregnancy healthcare entitlement is not specifically limited to antenatal care and healthcare professionals profit this legal loophole to grant access to public funding for abortion for migrant women. The instrumental use of a document primarily conceived to protect the rights of the unborn, paradoxically, enables women to exercise their rights. This example reveal one of the mechanism by which doctors and women by-pass the non-evident obstacles to exercise the right to abort.

panel P22
Health and wellbeing in post-war Europe: the contentious issue of abortion