Abortion law prompts pro-life protests in Spain

Tens of thousands of anti-abortion demonstrators gathered in at least four Spanish cities yesterday to protest about a new law that allows abortions without restrictions up to 14 weeks.

Organizers' spokesman Victor Gago said one march, in which demonstrators carried banners saying "Yes to Life," blocked Madrid's central Sol square. Besides the capital, rallies were held in Barcelona, Bilbao and Seville, Gago told The Associated Press.

"We are here to make all of Spain aware that abortion is a crime and that you can't just turn a crime into a right with the stroke of a pen," said protester Leonor Tamayo who attended the Madrid rally with her three children.

The law is the latest to be passed by the Socialist government of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero which first took office in 2004 and has ruffled feathers among many in this once staunchly Catholic country ever since.

Spain's Senate approved the new bill late last month after it had been approved by the lower house in December.

It is planned to come into force in July, four months after the law is published in the state bulletin, which is expected this month.

The bill brings Spain in line with its more secular neighbors in northern Europe, replacing a 1985 law that in theory allowed for women to be imprisoned for getting an abortion outside certain strict conditions.

Nonetheless, around 100,000 abortions are carried out each year in Spain, most of them early-term. Women must allege mental distress as grounds for the process.

Backers of the law say the new law brings an end to illegal abortions and offers women a choice. But, some protesters disagreed with that reasoning.

"Women don't have rights in this matter — it's the child that has the all the right to be born," said Borja Ozores, who pushed his infant son in a stroller.

Zapatero's drive toward liberal policies includes easier divorce and legalized gay marriage.