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Spain senate gives final approval to bill easing abortion laws

[JURIST] Spain's Senate [official website, in Spanish] on Wednesday gave final approval [press release, in Spanish] to a bill that will ease restrictions on abortions [JURIST news archive]. The legislation passed [El Pais report, in Spanish] once three veto proposals were denied by majority votes, after which 88 amendments were rejected. The new law allows for abortions to be performed up to 22 weeks with the confirmation of two doctors that there exists fetal malformation or that the pregnancy poses a serious risk to the mother's health. A fetus diagnosed with a life-threatening condition may be aborted after the 22 week period. Additionally, women aged 16 or 17 are also allowed to have an abortion without parental consent, though they must notify their parents. The legislation will effect four months after official publication, which is expected to occur in March.

Spain's lower house of parliament, the Congress of Deputies, passed the bill in December after it received approval [JURIST reports] from the Council of State in September. In October, hundreds of thousands of protesters rallied in Madrid [JURIST report] in opposition to the proposed legislation. The changes were proposed [JURIST report] last 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] in September 2008 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], which guarantees the right to life. Prior to the revisions, Spanish abortion laws [BBC backgrounder] dated to 1985, after the end of the Franco regime, and were among the most restrictive in European nations. Abortions were 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 was in danger.

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