Spain’s parliament on Thursday passed a sexual and reproductive health law that allows girls aged 16 and 17 to undergo abortions without parental consent and, in a first for a European country, offers state-funded paid leave for women who suffer from painful periods.
“These advancements allow us to exercise freedom over our bodies, with the state recognising the full citizenship of more than half the population,” Equality Minister Irene Montero told lawmakers before the vote, which was adopted with a 190-154 majority and five abstentions.
The country’s leftist coalition government had introduced the bill – opposed by anti-abortion activists and the Catholic Church – in May with the aim of guaranteeing abortion access and destigmatising menstrual health.
The new law removes a mandatory three-day “reflection” period for women who wish to terminate their pregnancy and eliminates the need for those aged 16-17 to obtain the consent of a parent or guardian to abort. This requirement had been put in place by the conservative People’s Party government in 2015.
It also includes paid leave for pregnant women from week 39, ensures the distribution of free menstrual products in public institutions such as schools, prisons or health centres, and designates surrogate pregnancies – which are illegal in Spain – as a form of violence against women.
Lourdes Mendez from the far-right party Vox said that by declaring abortion a human right, the law violated the constitution and turned Spain’s system of values upside down.
“In the face of an unplanned pregnancy or a baby that may be born with a disability, there is only one way out: the elimination of the life of her child,” she said.
Sonia Lamas, a spokesperson for the women’s health clinic Dator, told Reuters in an interview in May that the clinic welcomed these measures.
The so-called reflection period was unnecessary because “women make very informed decisions and we don’t need to reflect on something that we have already decided”, she added.
The clinic has faced protests by abortion opponents who regularly hold group prayers and stage demonstrations in front of the building.
Lamas said the groups conducted campaigns “to approach women in areas such as the entrance of accredited clinics – which should be safe spaces”.
The law is now headed for the upper house for final approval.