The Partido Popular government will introduce new legislation before the end of 2013 that restricts the ambit of earlier legislation introduced by the previous Socialist Government regarding the availability and access to services for the termination of pregnancies, according to the Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón. The reform to the Sexual Health and Voluntary Termination of Pregnancies Act will be presented to the cabinet once the August holidays come to an end.
In particular, the new law will add prerequisites to specific age-groups when seeking an abortion and will also set-out proposals for a committee whose responsibility it will be to consider those situations where the abortion is required for reasons of the health of the mother or irregularities in the formation of the foetus and the pregnancy has exceeded 14 weeks but is less than 22 weeks.
Reform to existing law
The law in Spain regulating abortions was originally set-out in Law 9/1985 and provided for the legalisation of abortions according to the duration of the pregnancy and the motive for it’s termination.
The legislation described three distinct situations that would give rise to a legal abortion: serious risk to the physical or psychological health of the pregnant woman, that the pregnancy arose a result of rape and finally malformation or physical defects in the foetus.
Law 2/2010 introduced by the previous Socialist Government in Spain sought to relax the restrictions on terminating a pregnancy and accordingly, any pregnant woman was permitted to end a pregnancy that had lasted less than 14 weeks, without any justification, medical or otherwise.
Furthermore, this right was conferred on any woman over the age of sixteen, with those aged between sixteen and eighteen having to obtain the authorisation of at least one legal guardian unless such authorisation would provoke threats or violence from the family of the pregnant woman. Should there be a grave risk to the health of the mother or serious anomalies in the development of the foetus, the time-limit is extended to 22 weeks.
The law was opposed vehemently by the Catholic Church and other Pro-life groups as well as the PP Conservative party who also launched a legal action to the Constitutional Court.
New legislation by the end of 2013
The new legislation, to be introduced later this year by the Conservative PP government, will make it a requirement that in order to obtain the termination of a pregnancy, those women aged between sixteen and eighteen years of age must now present a document that demonstrates that they have the necessary authorisation from their parents or legal guardians.
Should there be a fear that informing the parents would provoke conflict within the family, the doctor must submit in writing this belief, for which psychological reports may be requested if necessary.
As far as the Committee that will review terminations for health motives, this will be comprised of two medical specialists in the field, one of whom may be chosen by the pregnant woman. The committee will have ten days to reach a decision, which then must be communicated to the woman within twelve hours.
All in all the new legislation will give effect to the promises made by the PP when they were in opposition, and had disputed the introduction of the previous legislation by the Socialist government which had made abortion more accessible by young women under the age of majority. While the legislation is typically supported by various pressure groups including the Catholic Church, it is opposed by several opposition parties and womens’ groups who see it as a retrograde step for a woman’s right to choose.