abortion debate

Spanish government accepts fetal abnormality as valid reason for abortion

Conservatives backtrack on most controversial aspect of draft reform after protests

A protest against the abortion reform in Madrid in February.
A protest against the abortion reform in Madrid in February.Luis Sevillano

A six-month political and ideological row that had extended into the ranks of Spain’s ruling Popular Party (PP) is finally over.

The Justice Ministry has decided to cancel the most controversial part of its abortion reform bill – the one forbidding pregnancy terminations in the event of accredited fetal deformities.

The amended draft, due for government approval in July, now includes the possibility of abortion in these situations, as had always been the case in Spain since 1985, government sources confirmed.

The decision is a blow to Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón, who had championed the original bill on the grounds that it represented added protection for the unborn.

But broad sections of society, opposition parties and even well-known PP officials cried out against what they saw as a religiously motivated regression and an attack against women’s rights.

In the end, Ruiz-Gallardón – a former Madrid mayor whose popularity rating plunged after he introduced the draft bill – has accepted some of the suggestions contained in reports by the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ) and the Attorney Council. Although both oversight bodies have a conservative majority, they took issue with the minister’s plans to completely eliminate the fetal abnormality clause.

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Despite its toning down, the new law will still be more restrictive than the one in place from 1985 to 2010, which allowed abortion in cases of rape, fetal abnormality and when there is a risk to the mother’s health. This is so because the procedure for requesting and obtaining an abortion in the deformity case will be longer and more complicated.

The new legislation will also strike down the 2010 law passed by the previous Socialist administration, which had switched to a system of abortion-on-demand in the first trimester, in line with many European countries.

The PP hopes to pass the bill in early July, send it to parliament in the fall, and have it go into effect by the end of the year.