Spanish government proposes reform of abortion law

Main change requires under-18s to have parental consent

Anti-abortion protesters rally in Madrid  last year. Some believe the proposed reforms are too timid. Photograph: Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images

Anti-abortion protesters rally in Madrid last year. Some believe the proposed reforms are too timid. Photograph: Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images

 

Spain’s government has presented a new abortion Bill just months after its previous attempt to reform the law sparked a political storm. However, although the latest reform seeks to avoid controversy, it has angered some anti-abortion groups, who believe it is too timid.

On Wednesday in Congress, the governing Popular Party (PP) unveiled the Bill, whose main change to existing legislation is the requirement that girls under the age of 18 who want an abortion must have parental consent.

Under the current law, introduced by the Socialist Party in 2010, abortion is available on demand until the 14th week of pregnancy, or the 22nd week if either the mother or child is at risk. The conservative PP has consistently opposed this legal framework as well as the fact that minors do not need their parents’ permission.

Last year, it proposed a sweeping reform similar to Ireland’s current legislation and which would only have allowed terminations under two circumstances: following rape or if the mother’s health was in danger. While that Bill delivered on a PP election promise, it outraged pro-choice groups, who described it as a throwback to the Franco dictatorship era.

Mastermind

Further doubts about last year’s Bill gathered when senior figures within the governing party voiced concerns that it had been drawn up without forming a political consensus. In the autumn it was withdrawn and its mastermind, justice minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón, resigned.

The reform unveiled this week is much less radical and PP spokesman Rafael Hernando said it sought a broader backing than its predecessor.

“In an area like this, independently of people’s moral or religious issues, it’s important to think about the whole of society,” he said.

However, in seeking a broader consensus, the PP appears to have lost the backing of conservative and Catholic groups that had been campaigning for much stricter legislation.

Gádor Joya, of the anti-abortion organisation Right to Live, was scathing about what she described as the new “mini-reform”.

“It’s a mockery and a macabre joke which puts at risk thousands of human lives which [prime minister Mariano] Rajoy is demonstrating he scorns,” she said in a video message posted on Twitter.

Around 110,000 registered abortions take place in Spain each year, the vast majority of them in private clinics. A study carried out with the support of abortion clinics in 2014 found that of 913 girls under the age of 18 who had abortions during the first nine months of the year, 113 did so without parental consent.

Last year’s attempted reform drew tens of thousands of Spaniards on to the streets in opposition and polls showed that up to 80 per cent of people disagreed with it. While the new Bill is unlikely to face the same amount of resistance, pro-choice groups have spoken out against it.

“The reform that the PP is proposing is unnecessary and it condemns those minors [who do not get parental consent] to clandestinity or to being marginalised,” said Yolanda Besteiro, president of the Federation of Progressive Women.

However, the PP’s parliamentary majority is expected to ensure the Bill is approved, possibly this spring.