Government approves most restrictive abortion laws since return of democracy

Justice minister announces that terminations in cases of deformity of fetus will no longer be allowed Legislation means an end to access to the procedure on demand up to 14 weeks into term

Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón, during Friday's press conference.
Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón, during Friday's press conference. ULY MARTÍN (EL PAÍS)

As was expected, the Cabinet on Friday approved a series of controversial modifications to Spain’s current abortion law, which was passed by the Socialists in 2010 and was the subject of harsh criticism from the conservative Popular Party (PP) when it was in the opposition.

Speaking at a press conference after the weekly Cabinet meeting, Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón announced the changes to the current statute, which return to the requirements outlined in a 1985 law, and will only allow abortions under two conditions: if the baby presents a risk to the health of the mother, or if the pregnancy was the result of rape.

The new legislation eliminates the possibility of a woman aborting if deformations of the fetus are detected.

“The stage system will no longer be in effect,” the minister said in reference to the current law, which, among other things, allows women to abort up to their 14th week of pregnancy on demand.

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“The woman can only abort if she is in danger, and if it is due to a sexual assault,” Gallardón said. “There must be a prior crime complaint and it can only take place during first 12 weeks.”

Ruiz-Gallardón also added that women’s rights have to “go hand-in-hand with legal procedure.”

Socialist leader Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba said that the PP is using the abortion bill for “electoral purposes” as the European parliamentary race approaches. He also accused the PP government of curtailing women’s rights.

“The worst thing is that there are 100,000 women who abort annually. What is going to happen to them?” Rubalcaba asked.

The 1985 law, which was reached through consensus between the political parties when abortion was legalized, had been on the books under both PP and Socialist governments, but the Socialist administration of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero decided to break the pact by relaxing the requirements for the procedure, Ruiz-Gallardón explained.

“The bill restores the balance that the Constitutional Court set in 1985,” he said.

The changes will now go to Congress where they will be debated at the beginning of next year.

10 key points of the new law

  • The new law brings to an end the right to have an abortion.
  • Abortions will now only be permitted in two circumstances.
  • These are, rape, and risk to the mother.
  • The risk must involve "lasting harm" to the mother's health.
  • Fetal deformation will no longer be allowed as a reason to request an abortion.
  • Fetal deformation will only be a valid reason if it is "incompatible with life" of the baby.
  • A woman requesting an abortion will need the approval of two doctors outside the clinic treating her.
  • All doctors will be able to refuse to perform abortions.
  • Under-18s will need to be accompanied by their parents, and have their permission, before an abortion can be performed.

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