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Spain panel proposes sweeping abortion reforms

[JURIST] A panel of legal and medical experts headed by Spanish Minister of Equality Bibiano Aido [official website, in Spanish] on Wednesday proposed sweeping reforms [press release, in Spanish] to Spain's current abortion [JURIST news archive] laws. The panel contends that women should have the right to choose to abort during the first 14 weeks of pregnancy. Where the fetus is malformed or where the mother faces serious health risks, the panel suggests the right to abort should extend for up to 22 weeks. In cases where extreme fetal malformation would likely prove incompatible with life, the panel recommends extending the right to abort beyond 22 weeks. The panel also suggests the necessity of lowering the legal age from 18 to 16. These reforms are in sharp contrast with the current law, established in 1985, which allows women over the age of 18 the right to abort only in cases of rape (up to 12 weeks), fetal malformation (up to 22 weeks), and serious health risks to the mother (at any stage). Aido issued a statement [statement, PDF, in Spanish] in anticipation of public opposition to the reforms, urging society to view the law as a necessarily neutral guarantee of fairness to and protection of women in Spain. The Association for Families and Human Dignity [profile, in Spanish], a pro-life advocacy group, has already expressed their view that adding a relaxation of the law would be harmful to women [Diariocritico report, in Spanish] and would result in a spike of the number of abortions performed in the country.

The panel was formed in September [JURIST report] at the request of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero [official profile, in Spanish] as part of a series of social reforms including same-sex marriage [JURIST report] and streamlined divorce proceedings. Since Aido's committee was formed, the conservative Popular Party [official website, in Spanish] has repeatedly expressed the opinion [El Pais report, in Spanish] that relaxed abortion laws would stand in opposition to Article 15 of the Spanish Constitution [text, in Spanish], which guarantees the right to life.

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