Page last updated at 15:10 GMT, Sunday, 7 March 2010

Spaniards rally against abortion

View of the anti-abortion rally in Madrid on 7 March
Abortion pits Spain's left-wing government against the Catholic right

Thousands of demonstrators have marched through Spanish cities to protest against a bill that will make it easier for women to seek an abortion.

In Madrid, families with young children carried banners, flags and balloons and chanted "No to abortion! Yes to life!".

The bill, already passed by parliament, introduces abortion on demand up to 14 weeks into a pregnancy.

At present, a pregnancy can only be terminated in mainly Catholic Spain under specific circumstances.

The new bill is due to come into force in July.

It is the latest in a series of ethical issues which have pitted the Catholic right against the government, which has legalised gay marriage and made divorce easier.

"No woman can be sent to jail for terminating her pregnancy or threatened with that. That's the difference," Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said on Saturday.

Child's rights

One of those protesting in Madrid on Sunday, Maruchi Barosa, said the demonstration was "in support of humanity".

It isn't the mother who has the rights, it is the child
Protester in Madrid

According to one of the organisers, Victor Gago, the demonstrators had blocked the capital's central Sol square.

"We are demanding the right to life. The children are not guilty if their parents want or don't want them. They should have thought about it before," said Marta Puig, quoted by the AP news agency.

"It isn't the mother who has the rights, it is the child," said another demonstrator.

A similar protest in October drew tens of thousands of people onto the streets.

Spain's existing law, dating from 1985, allows abortion in cases of rape and when there are signs of foetal abnormality.

Currently, Spanish women can also end a pregnancy if their physical or psychological health is at risk. In practice, the last category has been used to justify the vast majority of abortions - of which there were 112,000 in 2007.

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