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Victory for Women in Spain after Battle over New Abortion Law

February 24, 2010

Marysa Navarro-Aranguren, Chair of the Board of Catholics for Choice, welcomed the victory today for women in Spain, after the senate voted to ease the country’s restrictions on abortion. In doing so, they rejected the opposition of the Catholic bishops and the Vatican over access to safe and legal abortion in that country.

Navarro, who is from the Basque country, said, “The Spanish government has done the right thing in liberalizing the abortion law. There is widespread support in the country for reform. Despite the best efforts of the Catholic bishops to argue otherwise, Catholic politicians know that you can support access to abortion and continue to be a good Catholic.

The new law, which will come into affect in June, recognizes a woman’s right to an abortion, legalizes the procedure up to 14 weeks gestation and allows 16- and 17-year-olds to have abortions without parental consent. They must inform their parents of their intentions.

Navarro continued, “This is another example of politicians in a heavily Catholic country telling the church hierarchy that they cannot control public policy and legislators’ votes through threats. We have seen legislators in Portugal, Ireland, Colombia and Mexico City ignore intimidation from their bishops and do what is best for their constituents. The more often this happens, the likelier it is to happen again and again. Women and their families around the world are the beneficiaries when politicians do what is the right thing to do, which is not always what their bishops want them to do.”

A recent poll by Catholics for Choice shows that the Spanish public, which is at least three-quarters Catholic, largely rejects the position of the Catholic bishops on abortion. Two-thirds of Spaniards (68%) disagree with the bishops’ opposition to abortion, while fewer than two in ten (19%) say they stand on the side of the bishops.

There is strong, widespread support in Spain for abortion to be legal in a range of diverse circumstances women may face. Over eight in ten Spaniards believe abortion should be legal when a pregnancy poses a serious threat to a woman’s life (87%), when it poses a serious threat to a woman’s physical or mental health (86%), or is the result of rape or incest (82%). Another 79% believe abortion should be legal if test results show fetal malformation.

Beyond extenuating circumstances, a large majority of Spaniards support a basic right to abortion. Fully six in ten (62%) say that abortion generally should be legal during the first trimester of pregnancy, leaving the decision up to women and their doctors.