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Move to thwart bill restricting abortion in Spain fails

By Susan Gately - 16 February, 2014

The Spanish parliament has voted by 183 to 151 to continue on to pass a bill that will restrict abortion in Spain.

14 wk foetus

A 14 week old foetus

In 2010 the Socialist government changed Spain’s abortion law, introducing abortion on demand up to 14 weeks, and the right to an abortion up to 22 weeks if the mother’s health was at risk or the foetus showed signs of severe abnormalities.

The new bill reverses those changes.

Under it, abortion will only be allowed up to 22 weeks in the case of rape, or when there is a serious mental or physical health risk to the life of the mother.

Certain foetal abnormalities that would endanger the child’s life if he or she is born will also be grounds for an abortion.

A woman seeking an abortion will require two doctors to verify these circumstances are being met. In addition the permission of parents of girls of 16 and 17 must be obtained before they can apply for an abortion.

The bill sponsored by the ruling People’s Party was tabled initially in December 2013. Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy said the proposed changes in the law fulfilled an electoral promise.

Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardo said lawmakers had to balance the rights of women with those of unborn children.

“You have my word that no screams or insults could provoke me to abandon my commitment to comply with the [party] platform to regulate the rights of women and the unborn,” he said at the People’s party convention earlier this month.

“We are not talking about moral issues or electoral advantages, but instead the defence of fundamental rights.”

Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy

Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy

Since December the bill has caused a storm of controversy, with strong public street demonstrations coming from a pro- choice group like Decidir Nos Hace Libres and its supporters.

Opposition Socialist party members believed that the ruling party was split on the issue, and asked for a secret ballot to be taken this week, convinced that the measure would be defeated and the new bill would not then be put to a general vote.

Instead on Wednesday the vote decided by 183 to 151 that the bill would go ahead.

According to the National Statistics Institute, Spain has one of the lowest birth rates in the world, and by 2017 deaths will outnumber births with an estimated 404,054 deaths for every 391,714 births. 

Currently one in five pregnancies  end in abortion, according to a 2010 study from the Family Politics Institute. In 2011 there were 118,359 abortions.

On 29 December 2013, Pope Francis delivered a blessing to a huge pro life rally in Madrid, gathered to show support for the rowing back of the abortion law.

In a live video link, during his weekly Angelus blessing, Pope Francis told the tens of thousands of people present at the Madrid rally that the gift of life should be considered sacred and not tampered with.  

While supporting the new legislation, many pro life Spaniards believe it does not go far enough.

A father of six, Ignacio Gonzalez present at the December rally said, “The new abortion law does not go far enough; it is still possible to have an abortion.”

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