Abortion in Spain: Private Clinics Sentenced by the Supreme Court for Misleading Advertising

13/10/2022

Last September, the Spanish Supreme Court confirmed the sentence by the Oviedo Court, condemning ACAI for misleading advertising. ACAI (Asociacion de Clinicas Acreditadas para la Interrupcion Voluntaria del Embarazo) is a group of some thirty private clinics, approved for conducting abortions.

A misleading general assertion

Prior to this sentencing, on its web site under the heading of frequently asked questions, against the question “What risks am I exposed to if I undergo an abortion?” the answer given was “Pregnancy termination is an operation which leaves no after-effects, therefore when you become pregnant, it will be the same as if you had not previously had an abortion. Neither is there any risk of becoming sterile after undergoing one or more abortions. Abortion is the most frequent surgical operation conducted in Spain, it leaves no after-effects and the incidence of complications is extremely low.”  A group of lawyers sued ACAI over the claim of no after-effects, as a general claim. The Oviedo Court, in its sentencing, subsequently confirmed by the Supreme Court, considered the claim to be misleading advertising following several witness accounts reported to the court on the subject of possible after-effects. A gynaecologist, a surgeon and a therapist were auditioned and made statements concerning the existence of cases where after-effects, in particular psychological after-effects, had been experienced.

Following this sentencing, the ACAI web site has modified the answer to the question as follows: “Abortion is one of the most frequent instrumental operations conducted in Spain, the incidence of complications is low when it is performed by professionals trained to perform the operation and providing adequate psychological support has been provided. The professionals at the centres will inform you throughout the process of the possible complications and/or side-effects of the operation, and this will be recorded by the signing of an informed consent form.

Abortion in Spain: A different situation from that in France

Abortion in Spain is governed by a law dating from 2010 which authorises abortions up to the fourteenth week of pregnancy, and the twenty-second week “in the event of a serious risk for the life or health of the pregnant woman or a risk of serious anomalies for the foetus”. Last May, the Spanish government put forward a draft bill to do away with the 3 day cooling-off period and the requirement for parental consent for minors, a clause which had been reintroduced by a law dating from 2015. The most recent statistics published by the authorities indicate a total of 88,269 abortions in Spain during 2021, i.e. a rate of 10.3 per 1000 women between the age of 15 and 44. This rate is 15.5 in France according to the latest available statistics. Furthermore, 15% of abortions are performed in state-run hospitals, the remainder being performed in private clinics. The statistics list some 200 in Spain.

This judgement aimed at certain clinics underlines the importance of not dissimulating the realities experienced by women for the benefit of an ideological and commercial approach.

Trivialising the practise and consequences of abortion for women cannot be an accepted aim for public health.

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