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Spain Halts Extreme Abortion Law

News follows resignation of Spanish Minister of Justice Alberto Ruiz Gallardón

(PRESS RELEASE) Today Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy announced the withdrawal of a draft bill that would have criminalized abortion in Spain, with exceptions only in cases of rape and when a woman’s health or life is at risk.  

The restrictive abortion bill, spearheaded by Prime Minister Rajoy and Justice Minister Gallardón, was scrapped after failing to build enough political support to move forward. National and international groups sent a joint letter in May to Prime Minister Rajoy opposing the proposed restrictions that posed “a serious threat to women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights.” Signatories included Alianza por la Solidaridad, European NGOs for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, Population and Development (EuroNGOs), Federación de Planificación Familiar Estatal, Human Rights Watch and Rights International Spain and the Center for Reproductive Rights.

In proposing the bill the Spanish government moved against the overwhelming trend of expanding access to safe and legal abortion both in Europe and globally—against the views of the vast majority of Spanish citizens. Following the news of the defeated abortion law, Spanish Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz Gallardón announced resignation from his post, as well as from his seat in Parliament and as member of the Popular Party.

Said Lilian Sepúlveda, director of the Global Legal Program at the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“Today is a huge victory for the countless Spanish women and men who have fought so hard to see their country’s laws changed to protect safe and legal abortion, and to keep these vital legal protections in place.

“The outcry provoked by the introduction of this law sent a clear message to both Prime Minister Rajoy and Justice Minister Gallardón that playing politics with reproductive rights is unacceptable.

“We commend the advocates for women’s health and rights in Spain for their unwavering commitment and tireless work to put a stop to these vicious attacks on women.”

While the attempt to ban abortion in Spain was halted, Prime Minister Rajoy announced that the current abortion regulations will soon be amended to require parental consent for young women 17 years of age and under who seek to end a pregnancy.

“Restricting young women’s access to essential reproductive health care services, including abortion, poses serious threats to their health and human rights.We will continue to stand alongside the women of Spain and committed advocates to build on today’s victory and block any effort to roll back the country’s abortion law,” added Sepúlveda.

Abortion was first decriminalized in Spain in 1985, but even then the procedure was legal only for rape victims and when a woman’s pregnancy had severe fetal impairments or posed a serious risk to her life or health. In 2010, the Spanish government took an historic step and amended the law to recognize abortion as a fundamental right, allowing this reproductive health service through 14 weeks of pregnancy for all women, without restriction as to reason.

According to a new Center report, 35 countries have amended their laws to expand access to safe and legal abortion services in the last 20 years—a trend that has marked incredible progress to improving women’s rights and lives, including significantly reducing rates of maternal mortality due to unsafe abortion. The report was released alongside the Center’s updated World’s Abortion Laws map—one of the most comprehensive resources on abortion laws across the globe.