By 172 votes to 173, the Cortes (Spanish parliament) rejected a Socialist proposal to permit an abortion if the woman were under severe social or psychological pressure.
It leaves Spain with a law passed in 1985 by a timid Socialist government that is among the most restrictive in Europe. It permits abortion only if the foetus is deformed, the pregnancy results from a rape, or the mother's physical or mental health is endangered.
The two main parties, the conservative ruling Popular Party and the opposition Socialists, instructed their MPs to vote on party lines. The 20 Basque and Catalan nationalist MPs were allowed a free vote, and at least half of those were known to be against.
The last time MPs debated easing the conditions for a legal abortion, in February, the proposal was voted upon three times - producing a tie each time - and was thrown out. In June 1996 it was defeated by 10 votes in the opening weeks of a new conservative government.
The Socialist leader, Josep Borrell, said yesterday that if the measure failed this time the party would not seek to reintroduce it this legislature. The Socialists dragged their feet in the closing stages of their own government in 1995, despite insistent demands from their own ranks.
The latest proposal prompted opposition from the Church. Some 2,000 anti-abortion campaigners protested outside parliament on Monday.
The Socialist proposal would have allowed a woman to seek an abortion within 12 weeks of pregnancy if she believes a child would cause her serious personal, family or social conflict.Reuse content