Spanish Abortion Clinics Strike to Protest Raids, Arrests

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Private clinics that conduct more than 90 percent of the abortions in Spain began a five-day strike Tuesday to protest a crackdown on centers accused of carrying out illegal operations.

The strike, backed by some 50 clinics across Spain, is a response to raids late last year of clinics in Barcelona and Madrid in which more than a dozen people were arrested.

Spain allows abortion in the first 12 weeks in cases of rape and within the first 22 weeks if there is a risk of fetal deformation. It is also allowed at any time when a pregnant woman's physical or mental health is deemed as being in danger, with a doctor's certification.

Some clinics were accused of carrying out abortions using fake medical certificates.

The Association of Clinics Accredited for the Interruption of Pregnancies said in a statement it was launching the strike to protest the raids.

"It's incomprehensible that while the option of abortion is provided for and recognized by the national health system and facilitated by accredited clinics, authorities allow the persecution of women and professionals involved,"

The association said it had sought talks with regional and national authorities to resolve the matter in recent weeks but to no avail. It did not rule out further strike action in the future.

The organization said women who had appointments for abortions during the strike had either been tended to before the stoppage or were given new appointments.

The strike was estimated to affect some 2,000 women.

Just over 100,000 abortions were carried out in Spain in 2007.

The clinic association called for the government to reform the law so that women may end pregnancies up to 12 or 16 weeks on demand.

The governing Socialists had such a clause in their 2004 electoral program but quietly dropped the issue upon taking office.

Last month, Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said he would open discussions with interested groups to see how the law that legalized abortion 22 years ago might be brought up to date.

But he said abortion would not be in the party platform for the March general elections.

The Health Ministry refused to comment Tuesday on the strike.