The new abortion law was approved by the Council of Ministers on Tuesday. Other measures such as the creation of menstrual leave are part of the legislative package. Pedro Sánchez, the Spanish Prime Minister, speaks of a law that “expands women’s sexual and menstrual rights”. Point by point, we explain what is at stake and how Spain can be the first country in Europe to legislate on these issues.
Women aged 16 to 17 will be able to voluntarily terminate a pregnancy without needing parental consent, changing a provision introduced by a right-wing government in 2015;
If the law receives the green light, it will remove other existing conditions, including the mandatory three-day cooling-off period for women who have decided to have an abortion;
Women who terminate a pregnancy will be entitled to a period of sick leave;
The bill seeks to guarantee that voluntary termination of pregnancy interventions are carried out in the public hospitals closest to the home of the person concerned, a requirement which is not currently met. Public hospitals perform less than 15% of abortions in the country due to doctors’ conscientious objection. For this reason, the document also regulates the conscientious objection of health professionals and creates a register of objectors in each autonomous community;
The period during which an abortion can be performed will remain unchanged. Up to 14 weeks, voluntary termination of pregnancy can be carried out voluntarily. In the event of fetal malformations or danger to the life of the mother, abortion can be performed up to 21 weeks;
Abortion was decriminalized in Spain in 1985 and then legalized in 2010. This is a new law and not a reform of the previous one, in force since 2010;
At the press conference following the Council of Ministers, Irene Montero (Unidas Podemos), Minister for Equality, insisted that with this legislative package, Spain “sends an international message of support to all women fighting for their sexual and reproductive rights”.
Weak due to period
Spain becomes the first country in Europe to grant social security benefits to women who suffer from severe and disabling menstrual pain (severe pain, cramps, nausea, dizziness and vomiting which some women suffer from during each cycle);
The discharge will be pronounced by a doctor and without time limit. The ruling contradicts a draft version of the bill, made available to media last week, which would refer to a three-day leave that can be extended to five days in the event of acute symptoms;
To fight “menstrual poverty”, the law requires that free products be distributed in public schools, prisons, civic centers, social centers, public organizations or social centers for women at risk of exclusion;
The project also wants to stop being “taboo to go to work with pain, to have to take pills before going to work or to have to hide” menstrual pain;
Currently, only a few countries like Japan, South Korea and Indonesia are considering the possibility of menstrual leave. “We are the first country in Europe to recognize menstrual health as part of women’s sexual and reproductive rights,” said Irene Montero today;
Outside the law, in the absence of an agreement with the Ministry of Finance, it has been proposed to reduce the VAT on menstrual products, such as sanitary napkins, tampons and menstrual cups from 10% to 4%. The Department for Equality, however, has promised to try to include it in the next state budget.
Pregnant women can stay home from the 39th week, even if it is not a high-risk pregnancy. Initially, this minimum was to progress during the 36th week.
Surrogacy is also addressed in the proposal, which considers them a form of “violence against women”. For this reason, advertising on this topic will be prohibited. Outside of the bill, there was the possibility that the courts could prosecute women who perform this procedure abroad, as it is illegal in the country.
Contraceptives and sex education
The government text also provides for an increase in sex education in schools, as well as the free distribution of morning-after pills in health centers and contraceptives in secondary schools.
After the approval of this Tuesday, in the Council of Ministers, the law still has a long way to go.
The bill, approved in first reading and much debated within the executive and the unions, will still have to receive the support of Congress;
When he arrives at the Palácio das Cortes, where the amendments proposed by the various parliamentary groups will be debated, they will have to reach an agreement. The law will only be passed by an absolute majority and the government (the PSOE/Unidas Podemos coalition) is in the minority.
From there it will go to the Senate, where there may also be amendments. If the document is not approved in the Senate, it returns to Congress.
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