- (Photo: AP Images / Arturo Rodriguez)
Spain's prime minister agreed to tighter restrictions on abortion Friday, limiting the procedure to only exceptional cases, such as rape, or if the health of the mother is in danger.
The country's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said at a press conference in Brussels on Friday that the government chose to roll back its legislation regarding abortion in order to fulfill an electoral promise. The country's new draft legislation now reflects the abortion regulations set in 1985. Previously, the country allowed abortion before 14 weeks of pregnancy. Now, abortion is only legal in exceptional cases, such as rape, and protecting the health of the mother or fetus.
Rajoy's conservative Popular Party holds the majority in parliament, and the conservative political party has long sided with the Roman Catholic Church on moral and social issues. According to the Associated Press, the Popular Party promised to tighten restrictions on abortion during its election campaign in 2011.
Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon asserted Friday that the purpose of the new legislation is to protect the health of women. "What the government understands is that in the dramatic circumstances of an abortion the woman is not guilty. The woman is always the victim."
Gallardon added that the bill guarantees the "defense both of the protection of life of the unborn and of women's rights" and would "act always in the interests of the woman." The bill will penalize those who perform abortions but not the women who choose to have them. It also requires women less than 18 years of age to get their parents' consent for an abortion, and any woman seeking out an abortion must visit two doctors who will not be performing the procedure. The bill also puts stricter regulations on aborting a fetus based on genetic defects, which was previously legal up to 22 weeks of pregnancy.
The bill still has to pass a parliamentary vote, but the Popular Party's control of parliament has caused many to stipulate that the bill will pass easily. Women's groups in opposition to the new abortion legislation have called on the female members of parliament to use their vote against the strict new legislation.
Groups opposed to the legislation argue it encroaches on women's rights and is a political play on behalf of the conservative party. "These changes have more to do with politics and ideology than social realities today in Spain," Francisca García of the Asociación de Clínicas Acreditadas para la Interrupción del Embarazo, the umbrella group that represents 98 percent of the country's abortion clinics, told The Guardian recently.
"From all the data we've seen, the number of abortions in Spain is actually on the decline," she said. "The People's party is trying to satisfy the rightwing factions of its party."