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Spain: Abortion Reform Proposed

(Jan. 23, 2014) In December 2013, the Government of Spain submitted legislation that would amend the current law on abortion, which had been passed by the Socialist government in 2010, in a manner that would restrict access to abortions (Anteproyecto de Ley Orgánica para la Protección de la Vida del Concebido y de los Derechos de la Mujer Embarazada [Bill on the Organic Law for the Protection of the Life of the Unborn and the Rights of the Pregnant Woman] (Dec. 20, 2013), Ministry of Justice website [click on 20 de diciembre 2013]; Ley Orgánica 2/2010, de 3 de Marzo, de salud sexual y reproductiva y de la interrupción voluntaria del embarazo [Organic Law 2/2010, of March 3, on Sexual and Reproductive Health and the Voluntary Interruption of Pregnancy], BOLETIN OFICIAL DEL ESTADO (Mar. 4, 2010).) The 2010 law was strongly opposed by the conservative Popular Party, a political opposition force at that time. (Vera Gutiérrez Calvo & María R. Sahuquillo, El Gobierno Aprueba la Ley de Aborto Mas Restrictiva desde el Retorno de la Democracia [The Government Approves the Most Restrictive Abortion Law since the Return of Democracy], EL PAíS(Dec. 20, 2013).)

The proposed legislation would only allow abortion under two conditions:

1) if the fetus presents a risk to the health of the mother, involving “lasting harm” to the mother’s health. In this case the abortion must be performed within the first 22 weeks; or

2) if the pregnancy was the result of rape, the crime has been reported, and the procedure is done within the first 12weeks. (Id.)

The draft law eliminates the right of a woman to obtain an abortion if any deformation of the fetus is detected. Fetal deformation will only be a valid reason if it is “incompatible with the life” of the baby. (Id.)

Additional changes that the legislation seeks to bring about include:

· the “stages” system granted under the current law, allowing women to abort up to the 14th week of pregnancy, will no longer be allowed;

· a woman requesting an abortion will need the approval of two doctors outside of the clinic treating her;

· doctors will be able to refuse to perform abortions;

· girls under 18 years old will need to be accompanied by their parents and have their permission, before an abortion can be performed;

· advertising of abortion clinics will be forbidden; and

· while women who abort pregnancies outside of the allowed cases under the law will not be subject to criminal responsibility, any physician who performs the abortion under circumstances not allowed by law will be subject to criminal sanctions. (Decálogo de la “Ley de Protección de la Vida del Concebido” [Decalogue of the “Law on the Protection of the Life of the Unborn”], EL PAíS(Dec. 20, 2013).)

On January 16, 2014, the issue of the proposed Spanish legal change was on the agenda at the European Parliament as part of a debate of non-discrimination regarding reproductive and sexual health rights. (El Europarlamento Debate sobre la Ley de Aborto Espanol [The European Parliament Debates on the Spanish Law on Abortion], LA VANGUARDIA (Jan. 16, 2014).) Many political groups in the European Union condemned the Spanish government’s legislative proposal, while European conservatives applauded the initiative. During the heated debate, it was stated that the European Parliament does not have the competence to question the authority of Spain to pass legislation on reproductive rights. (Id.)

The legislation has had such widespread effect that it was used as a model in a march in Paris recently in support of the right to life, by those who voiced opposition to a French government proposal easing access to abortion. (Ana Teruel, Marcha Contra el Aborto en París al Grito de “Viva Espana” [March Against Abortion in Paris Chanting “Viva Spain”], EL PAíS(Jan. 19, 2014).)