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Socialist Party issues abortion battle cry

Opposition sees street protests as the way to prevent PP reform from reaching Congress

Warning that “this is going to be a battle,” Socialist leader Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba called on Spanish society to mobilize against a controversial reform of abortion legislation planned by the Popular Party (PP) government. The Socialists are trying to prevent the bill from reaching Congress in its present form, as the PP’s absolute majority would ram it through.

“We’re going to try to make sure it doesn’t get there, and for that we need citizens to make it clear that they don’t want it,” said Rubalcaba. “The Socialists have 110 deputies [out of 350] and we will do everything we can, but things are not looking good.”

Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón is planning to reform the 2010 law enacted by the Socialists, which brought Spain in line with many other European countries by allowing abortion on demand up to week 14. Instead, the conservative minister wants a return to the old system of decriminalizing abortion only in certain cases, such as rape. But critics say that the new law will be more restrictive than ever, as abortion will not necessarily be allowed in cases of fetal malformation, as it was until now.

Ruiz-Gallardón has been deliberately vague about the specifics of his reform, insisting that he is merely incorporating a UN mandate for non-discrimination against people with disabilities. In his view, unborn fetuses with malformations fall under this category and deserve protection. Rather than taking Spain back 30 years on abortion rights, as critics claim, Ruiz-Gallardón says that this will be “the most advanced law” Spain has ever had.

Rubalcaba and other opponents of the reform say that the PP is pushing through this piece of legislation to “repay old debts” with the Roman Catholic Church and to keep its most radical voters happy at a time of continuing bad news over the economy.