February 4, 2023

MADRID (AP) — A regional government’s decision to restrict abortion rights in much of central Spain reignited debate over the issue in the southern European country on Friday, on the eve of this year’s local elections.

According to new measures adopted by the conservative and far-right coalition that governs Castilla y León, women seeking an abortion there must have optional access to unsolicited resources from doctors before starting the procedure.

These include listening to the fetal heartbeat, having a 4D ultrasound and receiving psychological counselling, in an attempt to reduce the number of abortions.

Patients are free to reject any of these suggestions.

The new measures were presented on Thursday by the far-right vice president of the regional government, Juan García-Gallardo, whose Vox party is the junior coalition partner of Spain’s main conservative Popular Party in Castilla y León. The Autonomous Communities of Spain have jurisdiction over public health policy at the regional level. The country faces regional elections in June.

“We are going to offer all the parents who want to see it a video in real time to see the head, the hands, the feet, the fingers. In short, all the parts of the body of the child that is being developed”, said García-Gallardo.

Spanish Health Minister Carolina Darias said no compromises would be allowed in the field of abortion rights.

García-Gallardo insisted on Friday that the measures would take effect immediately in Castilla y León, where around 2.5 million of Spain’s 47 million inhabitants live.

The announcement drew strong criticism across Spain, particularly from the left-wing central government. Most of the ministers were quick to condemn what they described as an attack on women’s rights, one of the main political banners of Spain’s ruling coalition.

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A prominent conservative figure and head of the Community of Madrid, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, jumped into the debate by announcing a new anti-abortion helpline for pregnant women.

“Although the left does not believe it, it is women who must freely decide the information they want to receive,” said Ayuso.

In Spain, abortion is permitted up to the 14th week of pregnancy, and the country has recently taken several measures to strengthen the right to abortion throughout the country.

Last year, the left-controlled parliament passed a law to ban the intimidation of women entering abortion clinics, where anti-abortion groups often demonstrated in an attempt to change their minds. The country also removed the requirement that 16- and 17-year-old girls obtain parental consent before terminating a pregnancy.

Although Catholicism is not the official faith in Spain, it retains a strong influence over parts of the population. Strongly Catholic for centuries, the country was ruled from 1935 to 1975 by the self-styled National-Catholic regime of military dictator General Francisco Franco.


This story has been corrected to show that the head of the Madrid region, Ayuso, announced a new anti-abortion helpline and did not criticize the new measure.