Liberalized Abortion Law Takes Effect in Spain

Spain's more liberal abortion law went into effect Monday amid protests by pro-life groups.

The new law, which was approved in February, declares abortion a woman's right and allows the procedure without restrictions up to the 14th week of pregnancy.

Prior to the legislation, women could only legally have an abortion up to 12 weeks' gestation in cases of rape and up to 22 weeks if there is a fetal malformation. Abortions were also allowed when the mother's physical or mental health is at risk.

Hundreds of people protested the new law on Saturday, shouting "no to abortion" and "yes to life." Earlier in March, tens of thousands made the same plea at a major rally in Madrid and other cities.

Spain is an overwhelmingly Catholic nation and the changes made by the Socialist government are viewed as bringing the country more in line with its secular European neighbors.

The legislation allows girls as young as 16 to have an abortion without their parents' permission. Parents must be notified of a decision to abort unless the young mother faces "a clear risk of family violence, threats, pressure or mistreatment."

The new law also removes the threat of imprisonment that was present in the previous law. Women who had an abortion outside the specified limits could have been sent to jail.

Last week, Spain's highest court agreed to hear a challenge to the law from the Popular Party. The conservative party, which filed suit in June, argued that the legislation violates an article of the constitution which recognizes that "everyone has the right to life," as reported by Agence France-Presse.

Abortion was decriminalized in 1985 and since then the number of abortions done has continued to increase. Last year, there were around 115,000 abortions carried out in Spain. The majority of abortions were done with women claiming "psychological risk."