Huge throng expected at anti-abortion rally in Madrid
Hundreds of thousands of people are expected at a mass rally in Madrid on Saturday to condemn plans by the socialist government to liberalise the country's abortion law, organisers said.Madrid - Hundreds of thousands of people are expected at a mass rally in Madrid on Saturday to condemn plans by the socialist government to liberalise the country's abortion law, organisers said.
The proposed new legislation in the overwhelmingly Roman Catholic country would allow women as young as 16 to undergo an abortion without parental consent.
"We could get more than a million people" at the demonstration, said Olimpia Garcia, a spokeswoman for CONCAPA, a Catholic federation that is one of the organisers.
She said 42 Spanish anti-abortion and Catholic associations are bringing their supporters from across the country to the protest in the Spanish capital, which is also backed by 235 organisations in 45 countries.
The protesters, expected to include former conservative prime minister Jose Maria Aznar, will march about 1.5 kilometers (one mile) across central Madrid carrying banners reading "For Life, Women and Motherhood" and "Women Against Abortion."
Another anti-abortion organisation, HazteOir (Make Yourself Heard), predicted it would be "the biggest demonstration in the history of Spanish democracy."
A similar rally in March attracted some 100,000 people, or 500,000 according to the organisers.
HazteOir said anti-abortion groups are also planning demonstrations in front of Spanish embassies in other countries, including Italy, France, Poland, Ireland, the United States, Nigeria and in several Latin American nations.
The proposed new abortion law, approved by the cabinet last month, would allow the procedure on demand for women of 16 and over up to the 14th week of pregnancy, and up to 22 weeks if there is a risk to the mother's health or if the foetus is deformed.
Women can also undergo the procedure after 22 weeks if the foetus has a serious or incurable illness.
The existing law introduced in 1985, a decade after the death of right-wing dictator Francisco Franco, only allows abortion in cases of rape, fetal malformation and when a pregnant woman's mental or physical health is deemed to be at risk if the pregnancy goes to term.
"This government initiative requires all people who value human life and the right to motherhood to express publicly their commitment to the right to life and to pregnant women to prevent further deterioration of the already precarious and inadequate committment of Spanish legislation to the basic right to life," said CONCAPA.
An opinion poll published Friday in the conservative newspaper ABC said 42 percent of Spaniards believe there is no overwhelming popular support for the reforms against 38 percent who believed there is.
A poll released earlier this month in the centrist Catalan newspaper La Vanguardia said a narrow majority of Spaniards oppose the reforms.
Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has defended the changes, saying the state should not "intervene in the free and private decision of a woman, who is the one who has to take on the responsibility of a pregnancy during her entire life."
The prime minister has passed a series of sweeping liberal social reforms since coming to power in 2004 that have angered the Roman Catholic Church, including measures to legalise gay marriage, allow for fast-track divorces and give increased rights to transsexuals.