Major controversy over thirteen-year-old abortion law in Spain

by Lorraine Williamson
abortion law

Spain’s abortion law is under scrutiny again. The PP, in contrast to progressive parties, wants to make abortion less accessible. This debate is happening at the same time as Vox wants to prevent mothers from having an abortion with special measures. 

Vox’s stance on abortion sparked controversy in the past week in the Spanish region of Castile and León. The far-right party wants to reduce the number of abortions in the region. They propose to do this by requiring women to hear their baby’s heartbeat if they are in doubt about abortion. 

Normally women get an ultrasound in the twelfth week of their pregnancy. But Vox wants to make this ultrasound mandatory between the seventh and ninth week. The party also advocates an extra 4D ultrasound in which parents can see their child’s facial features in the hope that they will not have an abortion and continue the pregnancy. 

Spanish government takes a different course on abortion 

For some time, the Spanish government has been taking the view that voluntary interruption of pregnancy should become more accessible. For example, applying for and obtaining the morning-after pill and contraception should be arranged more easily and cheaply through the social security system. 

Fourth debate on abortion law in Spain 

Parallel to this debate in Castile and León, there will be a debate in the Spanish Senate in early February on the reform of the 2010 abortion law. This law is almost thirteen years old and was partially expanded in November 2022. At that time it was decided that 16 and 17 year-olds may terminate the pregnancy without parental consent. The current abortion law was challenged by the Partido Popular shortly after its creation and later by Vox. 

ASSSA - health insurance in Spain

Sources from the Constitutional Court of Spain say it is a disgrace that a 13-year-old law is still being debated. The progressive parties are therefore curious to see what direction this debate will take. One of the points the PP appealed against at the time was that parental consent that would no longer be required for young people. 

In any case, the debate is not expected to go smoothly. Especially since Constitutional Court magistrate Enrique Arnaldo, who was once quite critical of the relaxation of parental consent for younger women, will try to convince the majority of his arguments. 

Sources do not assume that Spain will go back in time and that abortion will become a criminal offense again. But it is not self-evident that the progressive parties will just get their way. Arnaldo is not the first magistrate to try to change the abortion law. Before him, three others, both from the progressive and the conservative side, made an attempt. 

Preparation for amendment of abortion legislation 

The Senate is studying the nearly 200 amendments tabled by the opposition since 2010. The Partido Popular generally advocates the reintroduction of parental consent for all minors and the mandatory three-day reflection period. Vox takes these matters even further and wants to ensure that women in Castile and León are ‘informed’ before they have an abortion. This in the form of a mandatory 4D ultrasound and the mandatory hearing of the heartbeat of the young foetus. 

How was abortion arranged in Spain before the law was introduced in 2010? 

Before the current abortion law came into effect, abortion was in principle a criminal offense except in three situations; when the mother is in physical or mental danger, in case of rape or malformation of the fetus. Abortion was permitted in these cases up to the fourteenth week of pregnancy. 

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