Page last updated at 23:27 GMT, Saturday, 26 September 2009 00:27 UK

Spain unveils abortion law change

By Steve Kingstone
BBC News, Madrid

People gather in Madrid for a demonstration to protest the government's plans to liberalise the abortion law (29  March 2009)
Proposed changes to abortion law have angered large parts of Spanish society

Spain's socialist government has formally unveiled plans to liberalise the country's abortion law.

Under the proposal approved by the cabinet, abortion would be made available on demand for the first time.

Girls as young as 16 would be allowed to terminate a pregnancy without parental consent.

Ministers say it is about "rights and respect" for women. The conservative opposition says young people may see abortion as a form of contraception.

Spain's current law allows a pregnancy to be terminated in three circumstances - in the aftermath of a rape, when a foetus shows genetic defects, and when the health of the pregnant woman is at risk.

The government's proposal is that abortion should be made available on demand during the first 14 weeks of a pregnancy.

Ideological clash

The opposition has vowed to challenge the bill, arguing that it does not have broad support in Spanish society.

The Catholic Church also opposes any change in the law, and has called on its followers to join an anti-abortion rally in Madrid next month.

This is the latest ideological clash between Spain's Catholic right and a left-wing government, which has already legalised gay marriage and made it easier to get divorced.

The existing abortion law was passed in 1985 - a decade after the death of General Franco.

On paper, it appears strict. But in practice, many Spanish women have been able to secure abortions by arguing that pregnancy was endangering their mental health.

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