Spain's government, under Church pressure, vows to tighten abortion law

Opposition Socialist Party, which relaxed legal requirements for procedure in 2010, incensed

PUBLISHED : Friday, 19 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 19 April, 2013, 3:05am

Spain's centre-right government, under pressure from the Catholic Church and its own ultraconservative wing, has vowed "promptly" to tighten the nation's abortion laws, angering the opposition Socialist Party, which had eased access to the procedure.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy promised during the 2011 election campaign that swept his Popular Party to power to reform the abortion law but the changes to the legislation have been repeatedly put off, prompting a rebuke from the Spanish Church.

Justice Minister Alberto Alberto Ruiz Gallardon said on Monday his government would "promptly" reform the abortion law passed by the previous Socialist government, adding that life is "an inalienable right".

The risk to physical and mental health can not be considered as a pretext to not protect the life of a newborn

"The risk to physical and mental health can not be considered as a pretext to not protect the life of a newborn," he added at a conference in Barcelona organised by the conservative daily newspaper La Razon.

The minister sparked controversy last year when he said the promised reform of the country's abortion laws would make the procedure illegal in cases where the foetus is deformed.

Under a law introduced by the Socialist government in 2010 women were given the right to abortion on demand to up to 14 weeks of pregnancy.

The 2010 law also allowed women the legal right to abort up to the 22nd week of pregnancy in cases where the mother's health is at risk or the foetus shows serious deformities.

The minister's announcement came just hours after the head of Spain's Catholic Church, Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, called for an "urgent reform" of the 2010 law.

The plan to tighten the abortion law has angered the Socialist Party. In a debate in parliament on Wednesday, a Socialist lawmaker told Gallardon concern for the risk to a woman's health "has never been a pretext" for abortion but was a sound legal reason backed by Spain's Constitutional Council, the nation's highest constitutional authority.