Spanish government backs tough abortion laws

Abortion law would allow a pregnancy to be terminated only in the case of rape or where there is a serious health risk to the mother or foetus
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The Spanish conservative government has backed proposals that would create a tougher abortion law, giving doctors the right to refuse to perform a termination on reasons of conscience.

The bill would only allow a pregnancy to be terminated in the case of rape or a serious health risk to the mother or her unborn child.

The previous government made abortion widely legal before the 14th week only three years ago. But the ruling Popular Party has long sided with the Roman Catholic Church on moral and social issues and made changing the law one of its main promises in the 2011 vote that brought it to power.

Now, women seeking abortions will need approval from two doctors who are not performing the procedure and doctors can refuse to perform an abortion for reasons of conscience, Mr Ruiz-Gallardon said. The likelihood of a child being born with disabilities will not be accepted as justification for abortion.

In addition to this, 16 and 17-year-olds would have to obtain permission from their parents, who would also need to accompany them to the clinic where the termination would be carried out.

Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon said the change was necessary to provide greater protection for both women and the unborn. "We can't allow the life of the unborn baby to depend exclusively on the decision of the mother”, he told reporters.

Women’s rights groups and pro-choice groups have vowed to campaign against the bill, which is almost certain to pass because of the Popular Party's large majority in Congress. The legislation will now be debated in parliament.

More than 1,000 people marched to the Justice Ministry in Madrid last night and scuffles with police broke out after a life-size effigy of Mr Ruiz-Gallardon was burned. Police arrested at least four protesters and one was treated for injuries after police charged towards them, according to reports.

Additional reporting by agencies