Spanish conservatives challenge new abortion law at nation’s highest court

A conservative opposition party has asked Spain’s highest court on to throw out a new law allowing abortion without restrictions in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy, calling it unconstitutional.

The centre-right Popular Party filed suit with the constitutional Court and asked it to block the law from taking effect as scheduled on July 5 while it deliberates.

The party objects to eight clauses in the legislation, which became law in February when the Senate confirmed passage given late last year by the lower chamber of Parliament.

The law was the last pending piece of a liberal reform agenda undertaken by Spain’s Socialist government since it took power in 2004. It brought traditionally Roman Catholic Spain more in line with its secular neighbours of northern Europe.

The law allows 16- and 17-year-olds to have abortions without parents’ permission, though parents would have to be informed.

Under Spain’s current abortion law, which dates back to 1985, Spanish women could in theory go to jail for getting an abortion outside certain strict limits — up to week 12 in case of rape and week 22 if the fetus is malformed.

But abortion is in effect widely available because women can assert mental distress as sole grounds for having an abortion, regardless of how late the pregnancy is. Most of the more than 100,000 abortions carried out each year in Spain were early-term ones that fell under this category.

The new law wipes away the threat of imprisonment and declares abortion to be a woman’s right.

In challenging the 14-week clause as unconstitutional, the Popular Party cited a 1985 ruling from the constitutional Court that said a woman’s rights could not systematically take precedence over those of an unborn child, but rather only in cases of rape, fetal malformation or when the mother’s health is in jeopardy.

To establish a period for unrestricted abortion “violates the balance between the rights of the mother and the rights of the unborn,” Popular Party lawmaker Sandra Moneo said.

The party also argued that letting teens have abortions without parental consent violates parents’ right to have a say in the upbringing of their daughters.

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