SPAIN - Spain's centre-right government moved to make it harder for women to get an abortion on Friday, restricting a law that had allowed the procedure on request within a 14 week term, in a bid to rally core conservative support.
The proposed new rules will make Spain one of the most restrictive European countries on abortion and goes against the regional trend of greater ease of access, after Ireland legalized abortion under limited circumstances this year.
The draft law allows abortion only in the case of rape or if the pregnancy poses a serious physical or mental health risk to the mother. It eliminates the option of abortion on request in the case of malformation of the foetus.
In this case women would also have to argue that the pregnancy poses a physical or mental health risk.
The ruling People's Party (PP) has an absolute majority in parliament, where the bill is expected to pass easily.
The majority of European countries offer abortion on request, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), with 88 per cent allowing the termination of pregnancies if the foetus is thought to be impaired or in cases of rape or incest.
Abortion is illegal on any grounds in Malta and Andorra and severely limited in Poland.
The PP made reforming the abortion law an electoral promise in its 2011 campaign, and Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon is one of the more right-wing ministers who has often sided with the Catholic Church.
"We can't allow the life of the unborn baby to depend exclusively on the decision of the mother," Ruiz-Gallardon told reporters on Friday.
But pro-abortion activists and abortion clinics voiced dismay at what they saw as a retrogade step.
"This is the worst possible option we had considered," said Francisca Garcia, head of abortion clinic association ACAI. "It places Spain among the most restrictive countries (in Europe)."