Spanish Lawmakers Vote to Allow Abortion Up to 14 Weeks without Restrictions
December 17, 2009 - 1:06 PMLawmakers voted to ease Spain's abortion law Thursday, approving a bill to allow the procedure without restrictions up to 14 weeks.
The change would bring this traditionally Roman Catholic country in line with its more secular neighbors in northern Europe.
The measure now goes to the Senate, where passage is expected some time early next year.
Abortion reform was the last major pending issue in a bold reform agenda undertaken by Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who took power in 2004.
Under him Spain has also legalized gay marriage and made it easier for Spaniards to divorce in a drive that has infuriated conservatives and the Roman Catholic Church.
The vote Thursday in the 350-seat Congress of Deputies was 184 in favor, 158 against and one abstention.
Under the current law, which dates back to 1985, Spanish women could in theory go to jail for getting an abortion outside certain strict limits - up to week 12 in case of rape and week 22 if the fetus is malformed.
But abortion is in effect widely available because women can assert mental distress as sole grounds for having an abortion, regardless of how late the pregnancy is. Most of the more than 100,000 abortions carried out each year in Spain fall under this category.
The bill approved Thursday wipes away the threat of imprisonment and declares abortion to be a woman's right.
It would also allow 16- and 17-year-olds to have abortions without parental consent, as is the case in other European countries such as Germany, Britain and France.
This clause proved to be among the bill's most controversial ones.
In the end, the ruling Socialist party agreed to amend it so that such minors must inform their parents or legal guardian if they plan to undergo an abortion - although still with no need for their permission - except if they can show that doing so would cause serious problems for them.
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