The protracted legislative tug-of-war over abortion reform in Spain continues, nearly four years after the newly elected Popular Party (PP) made it a government priority.
On Thursday, a bill that tweaks existing legislation finally made it through Congress, although five PP deputies broke ranks and voted against the changes – for the second time.
The outcry was such that the Rajoy administration backpedaled on the plans
However, it was a better result than the 10 conscience votes that party leaders had been expecting from ultra-conservative members who reject what they view as a watered-down version of the PP’s original abortion reform.
When he took office after the November 2011 general election, then-Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón announced plans to eliminate abortion on demand in the first trimester, a possibility that had been introduced by the previous Socialist administration in 2010 to bring Spain in line with most other European countries.
Instead, Spain would go back to penalizing pregnancy terminations except in the cases of rape, when the mother’s health was in danger, or when there were accredited serious fetal deformities. Ruiz-Gallardón had even tried to go one step further and also eliminate abortion in the case of fetal deformities.
But the social and political outcry was such, even within PP circles, that the Mariano Rajoy administration decided to backpedal on the plans. Ruiz-Gallardón resigned over the failure in September 2014.
Now, all the government is aiming to do is ensure that 16-to-18-year-olds are required to secure parental consent before terminating their pregnancies.
But deputies Antonio Gutiérrez, Lourdes Méndez, Javier Puente, Eva Durán and José Eugenio Azpiroz still feel that the Socialist abortion law is unconstitutional, and either entered a no vote or refrained from voting on Thursday. All five face party sanctions for their actions.
The bill will now move to the Senate, before returning to Congress for final approval in September. The government deliberately waited until after the municipal and regional elections of May 24 to bring the controversial issue back to the top of the political agenda.
According to figures provided by the Socialist Party, 4,222 young women aged between 16 and 17 had an abortion last year. Of these, 522 did so without their parents’ knowledge.
English version by Susana Urra.