PP deputy congressional speaker calls for free vote within ruling party on abortion

Celia Villalobos says she “represents many people who are against” the proposed restriction on terminations

Carlos E. Cué
Celia Villalobos arriving at PP headquarters in Madrid for Wednesday's meeting.
Celia Villalobos arriving at PP headquarters in Madrid for Wednesday's meeting. Zipi (EFE)

The rift within the ruling conservative Popular Party (PP) over its controversial proposed reform of the abortion law that greatly restricts the right to terminate pregnancy grew on Wednesday after a key figure in the group called for a free vote on the issue in parliament.

Deputy Congressional Speaker Celia Villalobos signaled her opposition to the proposed new law, which does not automatically give women the right to abort in cases of severe fetal malformation, during a meeting of the PP’s executive committee on Wednesday, according to sources.

“I represent many people who are not in agreement with the reform that has been presented,” Villalobos said. “I ask for a free vote.” Villalobos abstained during a congressional vote in 2009 on the abortion law put forward by the former Socialist government of Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and was sanctioned by the party for doing so.

The Socialist reform, which came into law in 2010, allows for abortion on demand within the first 14 weeks of pregnancy.

A growing number of prominent PP members have come out against the proposed new law. The latest was Juan Vicente Herrera, the regional premier in Castilla y León, who on Tuesday urged the government to wait until the Constitutional Court rules on a challenge the PP filed against the 2010 law.

Villalobos abstained during a congressional vote in 2009 on the Socialist abortion reform

Extremadura premier José Antonio Monago and Galicia’s Alberto Núñez Feijóo have also expressed concerns about the reform. The PP mayors of Zamora and Valladolid and the head of the party in the Basque Country have also objected to it, as has the government delegate to Madrid, Cristina Cifuentes.

During the meeting, Monago reiterated his call for consensus, while Feijóo urged that the abortion issue not hold the meeting to hostage, while asking for dialogue on the matter to avoid imposing the proposed law in its current form. The premier of La Rioja, Pedro Sanz, said: “We have to avoid clashes among ourselves.”

Rajoy did not mention the abortion issue during the meeting while the former premier of Madrid, Esperanza Aguirre, chose to focus on a gathering of former ETA convicts held on Saturday, an act that she said should not be repeated.

Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón, the architect of the abortion reform, said: “The question is whether the left have a monopoly on the debate in certain matters. We have to lead.”

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