The deputy of Spanish far-right party Vox has been carrying out ultrasounds on pregnant women outside abortion clinics in Madrid in an apparent ploy to deter them from having their pregnancy terminated.
Gador Joya, a medical practitioner that specialises in children who is also a deputy in the Madrid regional assembly, has been providing the service from a van called the “Life Ambulance Project”.
The ultra-conservative politician, who claims she is giving women the ultrasounds as she thinks they “don’t know what they are carrying inside them”, has been fiercely criticised by abortion rights campaigners who argue the tactics are “cruel” and “inhumane”.
“I and other doctors have been giving these women ultrasounds," Dr Joya said at a regional health committee meeting in early November, according to Spanish-language daily paper El Pais.
"Precisely because I have been doing this, I know what has been hidden from these women. Most of them, when they receive the information and hear the heartbeat, decide to go forward with their pregnancies."
The health department told the outlet Dr Joya was not working for the public health system anymore.
Cecilia Gomez, a women’s rights activist in Barcelona, told The Independent: “It seems very immoral. This is purely just an attempt to intimidate them into not having an abortion. Their tactics are cruel and inhumane. They might think abortion is inhumane but what they are putting those women through – stuffing them into the van – is inhumane.
“They are taking lessons from other places like the US. I am not surprised. Vox is far, far, far right and they have attacked basic rights for women since the beginning of their rise. Their stance on abortion has always been anti-abortion. It is caveman. They want to take us back into a time when women did not have a choice about abortions.
"Women will always have abortions whatever. Making it illegal will just push women into having illegal abortions which put the woman’s life in peril where they can die. The women’s life should be protected versus the possibility of one.”
The campaigner questioned whether those involved in conducting ultrasounds on women were even staying in touch with them and providing parenting classes or financial or job support.
Bethan Cobley, of Marie Stopes International, said: “Nobody should face harassment or intimidation when accessing a legal, lifesaving and confidential health service and it is deeply concerning that medical professionals are pressuring women into having an ultrasound on the side of the street.
“Abortion clinics should provide accurate information in a private, safe, and supportive environment; and as recommended by the World Health Organisation ‘use of routine pre-abortion ultrasound scanning is not necessary.’
“Sadly, this harassment and intimidation from the anti-choice movement is just another example of the large-scale emotional abuse, breaches of privacy and complete disregard for personal choice faced worldwide by women and pregnant people seeking routine healthcare services.”
Women have had the right to have their pregnancy terminated since 1985 in Spain but far-right Vox – which more than doubled the number of its MPs to 52 in the general election earlier in the month – is fervently anti-abortion.
Vox’s forcefully anti-feminist manifesto comprised of a pledge to end public funding for abortions. Opposition to abortion in all situations formed one of the four central political goals which prompted the party to be founded back in 2013.
Katherine O’Brien, of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, said: “It is both completely misguided and profoundly insulting to suggest that providing an ultrasound will dissuade women from ending a pregnancy they feel unable to continue. Women understand pregnancy and what it entails. They do not need 'educating' by individuals lurking outside clinics.
“In the UK, anti-abortion protesters hand out leaflets with images of foetuses at different gestations in the belief that providing this information will dissuade women from ending pregnancies. This is simply not the case. The majority of women who have an abortion in this country are already mothers, and women know perfectly well how a pregnancy develops. These activities do not prevent women having abortions – they just make what can be a difficult day more difficult.”
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