MADRID (Reuters) – Spain’s leftist coalition government on Tuesday approved a draft bill to reinforce abortion rights and make Spain the first country in Europe to offer state-funded paid leave for women who suffer from painful periods.
The minority Socialist-led government hopes to guarantee access to abortion across Spain and destigmatise menstrual health with the new bill.
“Today we send an international message of support to all women who are fighting for their sexual and reproductive rights,” Equality Minister Irene Montero told reporters.
“We must guarantee that it is the women who decide what happens to their own bodies.”
If passed, the new law will eliminate parental consent for women aged 16-17 who wish to terminate their pregnancy, and remove the mandatory three-day reflection period.
It also includes paid leave for pregnant women from week 39 and guarantees the distribution of free menstrual products in public institutions such as schools and health centres.
The draft law also states that surrogate pregnancy, which is illegal in Spain, is a form of violence against women.
Spain’s abortion reform of 2010 allowed women to terminate unwanted pregnancies on demand within 14 weeks, or up to 22 weeks in cases of severe foetal abnormalities.
The draft bill has provoked a debate in Spain about whether the paid menstrual leave rule will help or hamper women in the workplace.
“It will only create more conflict when deciding on whether to hire a woman or not,” said 21-year-old student Pablo Beltran Martin.
But actress and singer Cristina Diaz, 28, said: “If a woman has a period that prevents her from working I think it’s great that she can ask for a few days off like any person who has a health issue.”
The bill also addresses so-called conscientious objection, which allows doctors to refuse to carry out abortions – a subject of heated debate between rights groups and right-wing activists. State clinics must provide a willing specialist, it says.
The draft bill, which will go to a public hearing before another reading in the cabinet and a vote in the lower house of parliament, is still months away from being approved.
Marta Vigara Garcia, 37, said she was pleased the new abortion law would facilitate access.
When she decided to terminate her pregnancy in 2018 after doctors told her the baby had only a slim chance of surviving, she had difficulty getting doctors to perform an abortion.
“They told me that because the baby still had a heartbeat, they wouldn’t do the abortion,” she said. “I had to handle it myself and go to a private clinic.”
The Spanish government’s move comes as thousands of abortion rights supporters rallied across the United States on Saturday, angered by the prospect that the Supreme Court may soon overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that legalised abortion nationwide half a century ago.
(Reporting by Christina Thykjaer, Belén Carreño and Emma Pinedo; Editing by Andrei Khalip and Janet Lawrence)