Spain to restore ban on abortion


THE CONSERVATIVE government in Spain plans to ban abortions, overturning a two-year-old law allowing terminations on demand, a justice ministry source has said, in a move likely to galvanise support among its core voters.

The previous Socialist government passed a law in 2010 allowing women to have a termination up to 14 weeks into a pregnancy or up to 22 weeks in cases of severe abnormalities, in line with most European countries.

The ruling People’s Party, which came to power in December and holds an absolute majority in parliament, is expected to present a Bill that scraps that law in October, based on the recommendations of a committee of experts, the source said.

Economic reforms such, as sweeping changes to labour law, have dominated the government’s agenda up to now as it fights to stave off a full European rescue against a background of soaring borrowing costs.

Justice minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon last month made clear his opposition to the current abortion law. “I can’t understand how protection is removed from the foetus, permitting abortion, merely because it has some kind of disability or malformation,” he said in an interview with right-wing newspaper La Razon.

A spokesman for the justice ministry said there had been no law change proposed as yet.

Any move would keep a campaign promise made by prime minister Mariano Rajoy to overturn the 2010 law of the government of then prime minister José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

It would bring Spain in line with traditionally Catholic nations such as Ireland and Malta.

Critics said the People’s Party was seeking to placate its core right-wing supporters at a difficult time of Europe-imposed spending cuts and tax hikes.

Pro-choice groups and the opposition Socialists said a change in the law would push Spanish society back decades to the period of the right-wing dictatorship of General Francisco Franco when abortion was banned.

They said denying women the right to terminate a pregnancy in the case of a malformed foetus was inhumane.

“The law doesn’t force anyone to have an abortion if there’s abnormality, but you can’t prevent women going for that option if there is a serious malformation,” said Luis Enrique Sanchez, chairman of the State Family Planning Federation.

About 2 per cent of the 600,000 pregnancies a year in Spain involve damaged foetuses, of which only one in four ends in abortion, according to data from the State Family Planning Association.

“In many cases we’re talking about seriously deformed foetuses,” Santiago Barambio, chairman of an abortion clinic association, said. “I’ve been doing this 28 years and women don’t get abortions because of something like a cleft palate.”

Abortion was first decriminalised in Spain in 1985 in the cases of malformed foetuses, rape or potential mental or physical damage to the mother. In practice, until the Zapatero law, which made abortions available on demand, terminations were still possible in private clinics without any time restriction under the potential mental damage proviso.

Anti-abortion activists have welcomed the proposed changes, with some saying they hoped Spain would eventually ban abortion in all circumstances, including cases of rape. – (Reuters)