Spain bans harassment of women having abortions

Spain has criminalised the harassment or intimidation of women going for an abortion under new legislation approved on Wednesday by the Senate.

Spain bans harassment of women having abortions
A member of "40 dias por la vida" (40 days for life), an international anti-abortion organisation that campaigns against abortion through prayer, speaks with a woman outside the Emece private hospital in Barcelona on October 28, 2021. (Photo by Josep LAGO / AFP)

The move, which involved changes to the penal code, means anti-abortion activists who try and convince women not to terminate their pregnancies could face up to a year behind bars.

The measure was proposed by Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s Socialist party and will come into effect after being published in the official state bulletin in coming days.

Anyone trying “to impede (a woman) from exercising her right to voluntarily interrupt pregnancy” through “bothersome, offensive, intimidating or threatening acts” will face jail time of between three and 12 months, or community service, the text says.

In practice, the legislation criminalises protests outside of abortion clinics.

The ban also applies to the harassment or intimidation of healthcare professionals working at abortion clinics.

Staunchly Catholic Spain decriminalised abortion in 1985 in cases of rape, if a foetus is malformed or if a birth poses a serious physical or psychological risk to the mother.

But the scope of the law was broadened in 2010 to allow abortion on demand in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy.

‘Praying is not a crime’

Even so, Spanish women still face obstacles, with “most” obstetrician-gynaecologists in the public sector refusing to carry out such procedures, the OMC doctors’ association has said.

When going to a private clinic, women are sometimes confronted by anti-abortion activists who try and persuade them not to end their pregnancies.

As the legislation was being debated, anti-abortion activists from the Right to Life platform rallied outside the Senate against the “criminalisation” of their protests.

“Praying is not a crime and we will continue to pray and offer our help to all those women who need it so that they can see that abortion is not the only solution,” said spokeswoman Inmaculada Fernandez in a statement.

“More than 6,000 children were born last year thanks to the help of pro-life groups and none of the mothers regretted giving birth.”

According to a 2018 study by ACAI, which represents abortion clinics, 89 percent of Spanish women said they had felt harassed when attending an abortion clinic, and 66 percent said they felt threatened.

Sánchez’s government is also working on a law to ensure that all public hospitals will offer abortions, and further legislation that will allow 16- and 17-year-olds to end a pregnancy without permission from their parents as they currently can in the UK and France.

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How to change your surname after marriage or divorce in Spain

While it's not usual for Spaniards to change their last names when they get married, it is possible for foreigners who want to do so. These are the steps to follow and the requirements you have to meet.

How to change your surname after marriage or divorce in Spain

In Spain, it’s not a tradition for women to change their surnames when they get married. Spaniards typically have two surnames – their father’s surname, followed by their mother’s surname (although nowadays it can be the other way around). The couple’s children will take the first surname of their father and the first surname of their mother to create their own last name.

READ MORE: Why do Spaniards have two surnames?

But what if a foreigner gets married in Spain and wants to change their last name to that of their partner as per tradition in their own country?

Or how about if you already have your partner’s name, but you get divorced in Spain, and what to change your surname back to your maiden name? Can this be done?

The simple answer is yes, you can change your last name in Spain, but there are several rules and circumstances that you must meet.

READ ALSO – Civil union or marriage in Spain: which one is better?

Keep in mind that although it can be done, because it’s not a usual thing to do in Spain when you get married or divorced, the process is complicated and you may have to repeat a lot of the bureaucratic processes you did when you first arrived in Spain.

The conditions you must meet to change your surname are:

– You must have a legitimate reason for the change, you can’t just change your surname simply because you feel like it.

– The new surname must belong to the person requesting the change. For example, if you want to change your name because you divorced, you cannot just request a brand new surname, you will have to prove that your maiden name belonged to you and change it back to that or another family surname you can prove you have a connection to. 

– If you want to have two last names, then both these names can’t be from the same side of the family. For example, you can’t have two names from your father’s side of the family and none from your mother’s.

The change cannot be detrimental to third parties.

READ ALSO: Can non-residents or new arrivals get married in Spain?

There are, however, some exceptions to the rules above. These include:

– Spelling corrections – Sometimes it might be possible that your surname is spelt wrong due to an error on behalf of a parent or grandparent or the Civil Registrar who registered the name in the first place. In this case, you are allowed to change your name to the correct spelling.

– Gender violence – If you are a victim of gender violence, then you may change your surname without the above requirements being met. You need to prove it’s a case of protection and there have been legal proceedings involved.

– Offensive surnames – You may change your surname if you meet the rules above, unless it’s offensive or means that there will be a great inconvenience.

– Preservation of traditional Spanish surnames – While this won’t apply to foreigners, those who have very traditional Spanish surnames that are at risk of dying out, may not be allowed to change them, in order to keep these names alive.   

How do I change my last name in Spain?

– If you got married in Spain, you can change your surname by going to the Civil Registry office in your local area, within five days of the ceremony, requesting the name change. You must show them your marriage documents as proof. They will issue you with a marriage certificate with the new surname.

– If you were married abroad, you will have to get your marriage certificate translated into Spanish and apostilled in order for it to be recognised.

– Similarly, if you got divorced in Spain or abroad, you will need to show the official paperwork of your divorce and some proof of your maiden name (or your mother’s maiden name if you prefer).

This might sound simple, but this is only the first step, you will need to change your name on every single official document you have in Spain and abroad in your home country. This means it’s essentially like starting out again when you first moved here. 

– The next most important thing to do is to get your surname changed on your passport. You will do this by contacting the authorities in your home country. The process will be slightly different, depending on where you live.

– Once you have ID documents in your new surname, you’re ready to change all the documents you have in Spain. This means firstly applying for a new green residency card if you’re from the EU or a new TIE card if you’re from a third country. You will essentially have to go through the whole process again, showing your new passport, any financial or health requirements, as well as everything you needed to show the first time around.

READ ALSO: Is it better to do a joint or separate tax declaration if you’re a couple in Spain?

– You’ll also have to change your name on your padrón certificate from your local town hall or ayuntamiento – this may be needed in order to get your new residency cards.

– Remember, you’ll also need to change your name on your bank account, public or private health card, driving licence and at the social security office for tax purposes. You’ll need to visit each institution separately, showing them your new passport and Spanish residency card, stating your new surname. You may need to go through the whole process of applying for them again, so it could take some time.