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Last Updated: Friday, 15 October, 2004, 11:59 GMT 12:59 UK
In Spain, foetuses up to 30 weeks can be aborted, but only in exceptional circumstances

BBC Radio 4's Law in Action will be broadcast on Friday 15 October, 2004 at 1600 GMT.

Abortion law is under close scrutiny, after it was revealed that an NHS-funded charity is helping women to get illegal late abortions abroad.


A newspaper journalist has accused the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) of referring women to a Spanish clinic for terminations of pregnancies over the legal limit.

On this week's Law in Action, Penney Lewis, Lecturer in Medical Law & Ethics, at King's College London explains both the English and Spanish law in this area.


Late abortions are lawful in this country, but only in circumstances where "there is a risk to the woman's life or if there is a substantial risk that the foetus will be seriously handicapped," she says.

In those situations, there is no time limit and abortion can be lawful up until the end of the pregnancy.


Spanish law is less permissive, but does allow abortion when the woman's physical or mental health is at serious risk. In this situation, there is no time limit. Ginemedex is allegedly using this ground to perform late abortions.

But the Catalan Health Ministry doubts that the clinic has carried out illegal abortions.


Ann Furedi, chief executive of BPAS told Law in Action that the charity has done nothing wrong in recommending the Spanish clinic.

"We are informed that in certain circumstances in Spain, it is possible for doctors to lawfully treat women over 24 weeks because of the way that they are able to interpret their law," she said.

Health Secretary John Reid has promised to investigate the matter further.

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