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Attorney General Seeks Pardon For Doctor In Abortion Case

April 3, 1991

MADRID, Spain (AP) _ A doctor jailed for performing an abortion on a 14-year-old who had been sexually abused since childhood could soon receive a government pardon, Spain’s attorney general said today.

The case has galvanized public opinion in predominantly Roman Catholic Spain. Feminist groups and doctors have demanded a pardon for Dr. German Saenz de Santamaria, who began serving a 4-year prison sentence Monday.

Attorney General Leopoldo Torres ordered the Malaga province prosecutor’s office to reverse its earlier position and issue a report supporting a government pardon for the doctor.

Government spokeswoman Rosa Conde recently said the Cabinet of Socialist Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez would issue the pardon as soon as it received the Malaga prosecutor’s report and other documents on the case.

On Tuesday, Socialist Social Affairs Minister Matilde Fernandez told reporters she supported a pardon for the doctor. The minister’s statement indicated the governing Socialists may soon propose measures easing restrictions on abortions.

Spain now permits abortion in cases of danger to the mother’s life, malformation of the fetus and when pregnancy results from rape or incest.

The abortion in question was performed at the doctor’s Malaga clinic in early 1984, six months before the girl reported to police that she had been raped repeatedly by an older cousin since she was 8.

The 50-year-old cousin was sentenced to two years in prison on a charge of statutory rape.

A Malaga provincial court and Spain’s Supreme Court rejected the doctor’s argument that the abortion was legal under the law’s rape clause. The Supreme Court said felony rape had not occurred, citing indications the girl had given consent to her cousin, if under duress.

The leading Madrid daily El Pais said in an editorial today that the law must be changed if it allows prosecution of doctors in cases such as this one.

″If even in such a clear-cut case - involving a child as well as a victim of rape - the judicial subtleties can lead to such absurd results, then the (abortion) law is a bad one,″ it said.

According to Health Ministry statistics, 34,000 Spanish women had legal abortions last year. The ministry said 70,000 legal abortions had been performed since the current law went into effect in August 1985.

Feminists and pro-choice groups estimate more than three times as many abortions as the official total were actually performed.