Page last updated at 16:28 GMT, Thursday, 14 May 2009 17:28 UK

Spain plans abortion law changes

Spanish parliament
The abortion proposals must be approved by parliament

The Spanish cabinet has agreed to liberalise the country's strict abortion laws, allowing abortion in most cases up to 14 weeks of pregnancy.

The proposals must go to parliament, where Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero lacks a majority.

His deputy, Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega, said changes were necessary to preserve the "dignity of women".

Anti-abortion groups have condemned the proposals and the Roman Catholic church has started an anti-abortion campaign.

Under current law, introduced in 1985, abortion is allowed in cases of rape up to 12 weeks of pregnancy and up to 22 weeks in the case of foetal malformation.

The most important thing about this law, what it seeks, is to protect women's dignity.
Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega
Deputy Prime Minister

It can also be performed at any time when a pregnant woman's mental or physical health are at risk from carrying the baby to term.

Currently most abortions in Spain are justified on the basis of psychological harm to the mother.

Under the proposals, as well as abortion with no questions asked up to 14 weeks, the procedure would be permitted up to 22 weeks if two doctors certified that there was a serious risk to the mother, or foetal malformation.

An abortion after 22 weeks would require a panel of doctors to certify that the foetal malformation would mean the baby would not live, or the foetus were diagnosed with an extremely serious or incurable disease.

"The most important thing about this law, what it seeks, is to protect women's dignity.

"That is its spirit, from beginning to end," said Ms Fernandez de la Vega, according to the Associated Press news agency.

The proposed changes follow other liberalisations made by Socialist Prime Minister Mr Zapatero, including legalising gay marriage and easing divorce laws.

The Catholic Church has condemned the abortion changes, with protests held earlier this year.

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