Spain’s leftist coalition government on Tuesday approved a draft law to strengthen the country’s abortion rights and make Spain the first country in Europe to offer state-funded paid leaves for women suffering from painful periods. With the new bill, the minority socialist government hopes to guarantee access to abortion across Spain and destigmatise menstrual health.
While addressing the media Equality Minister Irene Montero said, “Today we send an international message of support to all women who are fighting for their sexual and reproductive rights.”
Montero added, “We must guarantee that it is the women who decide what happens to their bodies.”
Through this new law, women aged 16-17 who wish to terminate their pregnancy will no longer need parental consent, and the three-day reflection period will no longer be mandatory.
The law also aims to include 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.
Surrogacy, which is illegal in Spain, is also described as a form of violence against women in the draft law.
As part of the 2010 abortion reform in Spain, women now have the right to terminate unwanted pregnancies on request within 14 weeks or up to 22 weeks, when the foetus has severe abnormalities.
Activists in Spain are debating whether paid menstrual leave will help or hinder women in the workforce. Some believe that the company owners might be hesitant to employ women if paid menstrual leave is permissible. On the other hand, some feel like women will be freely able to take a couple of days off just like any other employee on sick leave.
The bill also addresses so-called conscientious objection, which allows doctors to refuse to perform abortions – a topic of heated debate between abortion 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.
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 d.