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Spain congress approves bill easing abortion laws

[JURIST] Spain's lower house of parliament, the Congress of Deputies [official website, in Spanish] on Thursday approved [press release, in Spanish] a bill [text, PDF; in Spanish] that would ease restrictions on abortions [JURIST news archive]. The bill passed by a vote of 183-158 with two abstentions. Current Spanish abortion law dates from 1985, after the end of the Franco regime. Abortions are permitted only in the case of rape, up to 12 weeks, severe fetal malformation, up to 22 weeks, or if the woman's physical or mental health is in danger. Under the proposed legislation [El Pais report, in Spanish], abortion would be permitted up to 14 weeks for any reason and up to 22 weeks if there is severe fetal malformation or a serious risk to the mother. Women aged 16 or 17 would also be allowed to have an abortion without parental consent, but would have to inform their parents. The bill must now go before the Senate [official website, in Spanish].

In October, hundreds of thousands of protesters rallied in Madrid [JURIST report] in opposition to the proposed legislation. Spain's Council of State approved the bill [JURIST report] in September. The changes were proposed [JURIST report] in March by a panel of legal and medical experts led by Minister of Equality Bibiano Aido [official website, in Spanish], eliciting widespread protests [JURIST report] throughout Spain. The panel was formed [JURIST report] last September at the request of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero [official profile, in Spanish] as part of a series of social reforms that have included same-sex marriage [JURIST report] and streamlined divorce proceedings. The conservative Popular Party [party 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. Spanish abortion laws [BBC backgrounder] are among the most restrictive in European nations.

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