Spain: Thousands protest anti-choice bill

Issue 

Tens of thousands of people marched to Spain's parliament in Madrid on February 1 to protest against a proposed new law that would severely curb access to abortion.

Changes to the law would permit abortions to be carried out only in cases of rape or serious risk to health.

The rally was organised by dozens of women's groups fighting for reproductive rights. Participants travelled from across the Spanish state to take part, with trains full of protesters arriving in Madrid throughout the day.

Protesters carried banners saying: “Because I decide”, “Allow mothers to decide” and “Mothers and fathers in freedom”.

The previous social democratic government made abortion before the 14th week widely legal. But the ruling conservative Popular Party has long sided with the Roman Catholic church on social issues. It made changing the law one of its main promises in the 2011 elections that brought it to power.

The law needs parliamentary approval, but the PP has a large majority.

Protester Cristina Bermejo said she felt the new law would set Spanish society back by decades. “In the rest of Europe, where previously many viewed us as an example of freedom and civil rights, now they are questioning us, asking what on earth we are doing,” Bermejo said.

Another protester said: “We are here to protest against a government that wants to take us back to the times of Franco. We are stepping backwards with this law.”

The demonstration was one of the largest since Spain's centre-right government backed the new legislation in December. It was supported by several Spanish opposition parties.

A separate protest against the law also took place near the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Protesters called on justice minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon to resign.

With polls showing that between 70-80% of the population are against the changes, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has recently softened his stance on the bill.

“The constitution and different opinions will be taken into account,” he said ahead of the protest. But the parliament is still expected to pass the bill in late spring.

[Reprinted from .]