Thousands march across Spain to celebrate end of abortion reform

Pro-choice campaigners also hail resignation of ex-justice minister over failure of law

Socialist leader Pedro Sánchez (third from left) marches in Madrid to celebrate the end of the abortion reform.
Socialist leader Pedro Sánchez (third from left) marches in Madrid to celebrate the end of the abortion reform.Julián Rojas

Women’s groups marched across Spain on Sunday to celebrate the government’s recent announcement that it was dropping plans to toughen the country’s abortion law.

The demonstrations, which coincided with a global abortion rights campaign called March for Choice and took place in 40 Spanish cities, also hailed the resignation of the minister who championed the changes.

The largest march took place in Madrid, where around 3,000 people stood in the rain and chanted slogans such as “Yes we can!” and “Gallardón has been left without a seat!”

There were several well-known faces in the crowd, including Socialist Party leader Pedro Sánchez, who said he would be “watching” to ensure the government did not curtail women’s rights in any way.

The deeply divisive reform even affected the PP, some of whose members expressed opposition to it

Smaller marches took place in Barcelona, Seville, Bilbao, Valladolid, Alicante, Málaga, A Coruña and Vigo, among other cities.

Organizers had initially called the marches to protest the conservative Popular Party (PP) government’s plan to revoke existing legislation, which allows abortion on demand in the first trimester. The PP wanted to take Spain back to an earlier law that prohibited pregnancy terminations except in a few specific cases, such as rape or serious and accredited fetal deformities.

Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón had planned to take the new law further and eliminate even this last possibility, a notion that created widespread opposition among political and social groups. The deeply divisive reform had even affected the PP, some of whose leading officials openly expressed opposition to it.

After softening up parts of the draft, a week ago Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy confirmed that the reform was being scrapped altogether, a decision that prompted the resignation of Ruiz-Gallardón just hours later. He has since been replaced by Rafael Catalá.