Leading PP politician defies party in abortion reform vote

Deputy congressional speaker Celia Villalobos votes in favor of withdrawal of controversial bill

Deputy congressional speaker Celia Villalobos, a member of the ruling conservative Popular Party (PP), broke with party discipline on Thursday in voting in favor of a motion presented by the Plural Left grouping in Congress calling for the withdrawal of the government's controversial abortion bill, which greatly restricts the rights of women to terminate a pregnancy.

The two aspects of the motion were voted on separately and rejected with the PP using its absolute majority in Congress to do so. The first point was defeated by 186 votes against to 125 in favor and the second by 175 votes against and 136 in favor. On both occasions Villalobos voted with the left, the nationalist parties and the centrist UPyD.

Both votes were public. In a secret vote earlier this week on a motion presented by the main opposition Socialist Party (PSOE) also calling for the withdrawal of the bill, Villalobos voted with the PP because she felt the vote was a ploy by the PSOE to split the party. "I voted against the PSOE," she said. "It's not the same thing to vote against the PSOE than to support this abortion reform."

Villalobos faces being sanctioned by her party in the form of a fine of 500 euros.

A number of leading figures in the PP, including the regional premiers of Galicia and Extremadura, have criticized the abortion reform, which only allow for pregnancy interruptions in cases of rape or if the woman's health is at serious risk. Serious fetal deformity will also no longer be considered a valid reason to seek a termination. The current law allows abortion on demand up to the first 14 weeks of pregnancy.

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