Spain's highest court to hear challenge to abortion law

1st July 2010, Comments 0 comments

Spain's highest court on Wednesday agreed to hear a challenge from the conservative opposition party over the government's new more liberal abortion law, just days before it is to take effect.

The legislation, also strongly opposed by the Roman Catholic Church, was approved by parliament on February 24 and is due to take effect on Monday.

It allows abortion on demand 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 has serious problems.

It is in line with most of the country's European Union partners.

But on June 1, the conservative opposition Popular Party called on the Constitutional Court to strike down the new law, charging it violates article 15 of the constitution which recognises that "everyone has the right to life".

The court on Wednesday gave the government and the parliament three days to present their cases in favour of the law.

Equality Minister Bibiana Aido said Wednesday she had "no doubt" that the new law was "completely constitutional" and would take effect on schedule next week.

Last year around 115,000 abortions were carried out in Spain, the vast majority on the grounds that the woman's mental health was at risk, according to the health ministry.

Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of Madrid in October to condemn the government's liberalisation of the abortion laws in the overwhelmingly Catholic country.

The initial draft of the new law allowed girls as young as 16 to terminate pregnancies without their parents' knowledge.

But the bill was watered down, and the amended text approved by parliament obliges minors aged 16 or 17 to inform their families of a decision to abort, except if they face "a clear risk of family violence, threats, pressure or mistreatment".

The previous law introduced in 1985 only allowed abortion in cases of rape, foetal malformation and when a pregnant woman's mental or physical health is deemed to be at risk if the pregnancy goes to term.

© 2010 AFP

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