“I didn’t imagine that, without having him, I would miss him so much.” Laura (not her real name) is a Catalan woman in her early thirties who, last March, traveled to Brussels to have an abortion at the public university hospital. This center receives, each year, about a hundred women who cannot do it in Spain. Laura was accompanied, at all times, by Pablo (fictitious name), her partner. Terminating the pregnancy was one of the most difficult decisions in their lives because, they insist, they wanted to have the baby. But, after week 22, the doctors saw that something was wrong with the fetus. And, shortly after, came the diagnosis: a severe malformation with uncertain prognosis.
The Spanish abortion law allows abortion free until week 14. From then until the 22nd, the woman, to interrupt the pregnancy, needs a medical report that certifies that there is a serious risk to the life or health of the pregnant woman or anomalies incompatible with life. From week 22, the pregnant woman needs to go through a hospital Clinical Committee, who is the one who decides whether or not she can abort. Women in this situation are at the expense of what this committee says.
the recent reform of this law continues to leave this group of women in limbo who, like Laura, who decide to abort beyond 22 weeks because the diagnosis is late but also decisive: the fetus has a malformation and its life prognosis, to be born, it is very doubtful. For these women begins, from here, a hard journey of Trips abroad (not only to Belgium, but also to France or the United States) in order to have an abortion. They are women who feel abandoned and helpless, whom the law does not protect. Women who prefer not to show their faces or say, for example, what city they live in, for fear of being judged, pointed out or rejected. And they often need psychological therapy to get over the trauma.
“Someone who miscarries after week 22 is someone who loves that baby. You go abroad to do something you would never have wanted to do.” Laura says, her voice cracking. The diagnosis came to them when they did not expect it and the uncertainty It weighed them down like a stone. The gynecologist who treated them in a Catalan hospital told them that they could go to Brussels or France to have an abortion, but he did not give them more information.
“When you start looking for the hospital phone, you feel like a criminal,” Laura recounts. There, with the same diagnosis, they had no “no problem to abort”. The Belgian law, like the French, is quite similar to the Spanish, but with a nuance: the woman can abort when the fetus has a serious anomaly, no need for this to be incompatible with life.
Laura and Pablo were treated in Brussels with the European sanitary card, thanks to which the intervention abroad cost them only 150 euros. Management was fast. They sent the medical reports to the hospital on a Saturday and the following Monday they made an appointment. Laura remembers the fear and anguish with which he boarded the plane.
Because, although at first the “fear” of going abroad and the anxiety of carrying out all the paperwork occupied everything, then came the harsh reality: assuming the “emotional mess” that caused the whole process. “I think if I had aborted here, I would have started the duel sooner. When you’re there you lose your sense of reality because, in the hospital, they treat you so well, that they prevent you from thinking about the subject”, says Laura. “If people think that it is like going to have a mole removed, then no”. Since then she has been in psychological therapy .
“There is a lot of anguish, uncertainty and suffering in these women. They have a need to emotional accompaniment that is not offered by the health system,” says Rachel Gomez, psychologist at the Associació de Drets Sexuals i Reproductius, a Barcelona entity that accompanies women on an emotional and informative level so that they freely decide on the interruption of pregnancy, either in Spain or in another country. They deal with cases like Laura’s.
Gomez explains that many “lock themselves up at home so people don’t ask how the pregnancy is going.” In the case of those who abort abroad, the pain is multiplied because “everything is more complicated”, they must “make arrangements”, “go abroad”. In addition, they must have money to pay it.
Laura is grateful to the entire medical team that treated her in Brussels. She does not want to give her name, but she does want to make her case public so that more women in her situation know that they have a way out of her. She sends a message to all of them: “That they do not suffer for having to abort outside [en Bruselas]. Over there They will be well cared for and treated.”