Spanish lawmakers vote to legalise abortion

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The abortion reform will now go to the upper-house Senate before returning to parliament for final approval.

Madrid – Spanish lawmakers Thursday approved a bill to legalise abortion, overriding a wall of protest from the Roman Catholic Church and the conservative opposition.

Tabled by the Socialist government, the abortion reform won backing from 184 deputies in Spain's 350-seat lower chamber. It will now go to the upper-house Senate before returning to parliament for final approval.

Under the new law, abortions would be allowed 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 is has serious problems, in line with most of Spain's European Union partners.

Under current legislation, Spain permits abortion only in cases of rape, foetal malformation or when a pregnant woman's mental or physical health is deemed to be at risk if the pregnancy goes to term.

The last argument is used for the great majority of abortions carried out in Spain.

Championed by the government of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, the reform has been fiercely opposed by the powerful Catholic Church as well as the rightwing opposition Popular Party.

The head of Spain's conference of bishops warned in the run-up to the vote that abortion was a crime and that lawmakers who backed the reform would be committing a sin.

The ruling Socialists agreed on Thursday to drop the most controversial of the reform measures, which would have allowed girls of 16 to end a pregnancy without parental consent.

Under the amended text, young girls would have to inform their families of a decision to abort, except if they face "a clear risk of family violence, threats, pressure or mistreatment".

Socialist lawmakers were joined in backing the text by the centre-right Basque nationalist group in parliament as well as several Catalan and Galician nationalists.

AFP / Expatica

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