Spain drops abortion reform law

The controversial abortion law that would have sent Spain back to the days of Franco has been dropped. PM Rajoy’s office has admitted that due to lack of internal consensus it’s unlikely to be passed in this legislature and can be considered shelved.

It’s a humiliating blow to the extreme conservative wing of the PP, under Justice Minister Alberto Gallardon (he used to be Mayor of Madrid), but Spain has united in defence of women’s rights and forced them to back down.

Just last July, Alberto had promised the law would be signed before the end of summer. Asked to define that, he firmly told reporters that “for me, summer ends on the same day it does for the Met Agency”.

That means the law should be presented next week at the next Consejo de Ministros. It hasn’t been prepared, won’t be presented, isn’t ready to be prepared, and has been quietly shelved.

The law had been approved in draft form last year. It was a draconian law which only permitted abortion under authorisation from a panel of two specialist doctors who had to certify that the Mother’s life was in danger; it removed the right to abort in case of malformation of the fetus; it removed the current 14 week “free abortion” period; and only allowed abortion up to 22 weeks. Women had to “reflect” for 7 days, which included a series of counselling and, it was rumoured, religious education for Catholics. It was, in fact, a return to the very first abortion law passed at the end of the Franco era. (OK, the transición).

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It delighted the extreme right of the party and the Church, but everyone screamed blue murder about it, including other EU countries. The Guild of Doctors recommended against it, feminists demonstrated and the whole thing was starting to affect the PP in the polls.

In fact, that’s probably what’s caused the thing to be dropped, Rajoy having decided that the battering he’s taking from the electorate ahead of the next years elections being more important than dropping his Justice Minister in it. Many moderate middle class professionals back the PP’s work and educational reforms, but the abortion law was a line they weren’t prepared to cross.

It’s an open question now as to whether Alberto will be forced to fall on his sword and resign, rather than limp on after such a personal catastrophe. The law was his personal baby that he introduced and nurtured over the last three years, and to have it dropped at the last fence – not even voted on, but simply shelved – is a massive blow in the face to him by his colleagues.

On a positive note, he won’t be missed.

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