Abortion in Spain

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Abortion in Spain is legal with some restrictions. Abortion during the first trimester is legal upon request. However, abortion during the second trimester is legal only for serious risk to the health of the woman or fetal defects.

Abortion legislation in Spain has a varied history. During the 1930s, abortion law was liberalized in the area controlled by the Republicans, but this was short-lived, as the Franco regime with support of the Catholic Church, outlawed abortion again. The laws were relaxed in 1985, and were further liberalized in 2010. Abortion remains a controversial political issue in Spain, and regular attempts to restrict it occur but they have failed to get enough traction.[1]

In recent years, abortion rates have been falling, as better access to emergency contraception has been introduced.[2]


Voluntary Interruption of Pregnancy Induced Abortion in Spain is regulated under Title II of the Organic Law 2/2010 of sexual and reproductive health and abortion.[3] This law legalizes the practice of abortion during the first 14 weeks of pregnancy. The law came into force on 5 July 2010.[4] The previous regulation - Organic Law 9/1985[5] - decriminalized abortion on several points. The conservative People's Party in June 2010 filed an action against several provisions of law to the Constitutional Court, which has not yet been pronounced. In the electoral program for the general election held on 20 November 2011, the People's Party included modifying the law on abortion.[6][7]

In Spain, induced abortion has been a practice totally banned, illegal and punishable[citation needed] except for a period of the Second Republic and from the 9/1985 and the last 2/2010 law acts which, to varying degrees, have decriminalized abortion.

For authors such as Ibáñez and García Velasco, prohibition and criminalization of abortion did not prevent about 100,000 abortions from happening a year.[8] From this point of view, punishment would not solve the problem, as hiding contributed decisively in the death of women who practiced abortion in conditions of illegality and legal and sanitary uncertainty. In 1976, according to the Supreme Court, between 200 and 400 women died from illegal abortions.[citation needed]

Moreover, advocates of legally induced abortion argue that the problem of hiding mainly affects poor women with fewer economic resources, as women in a better social position would have resorted to the activity known as "abortion tourism", meaning they travel to other countries to get an abortion.[9]

Considering the point of view presented as being against abortion, the arguments offered for banning it include that it is a criminal and murderous practice.[10]

In any case, both the supporters of legalization, as well as its detractors, put the bulk of their argument in defense of life, firstly in the life of the mother, secondly in the life of the unborn child.

In both cases, virtually all the Spanish people interviewed, have been in favor of more social awareness on abortion and the need for government to regulate its intervention.[10]

Second Spanish Republic[edit]

On 25 December 1936, in Catalonia, free abortion was legalized during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy with a decree signed by Josep Tarradellas and published on 9 January 1937 (Diari Oficial de la Generalitat de Catalunya, núm.9).[11][12][13]

In the area loyal to the Republic during the Spanish Civil War, in 1937, the Minister for Health being the Catalan anarchist (CNT) Federica Montseny in the socialist Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) government headed by Francisco Largo Caballero legalized the practice of abortion, but its effect was short-lived, as the Franco side repealed.

Organic Law 9/1985[edit]

In the Organic Law 9/1985, adopted on 5 July 1985, induced abortion was legalized in three cases: serious risk to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman (supposedly therapeutic), rape (supposedly criminology), and malformations or defects, physical or mental, in the fetus (supposedly eugenics).[14]

According to this law, the mother could terminate the pregnancy in public or private health centres in the first 12 weeks for reasons related to criminology, in the first 22 weeks in eugenics, and at any time during pregnancy for therapeutic reasons. In the second and third cases, a medical report was required to certify compliance with the conditions laid down by law, in cases of rape, it was necessary to take the relevant prior police report. In these three cases, abortion was not punishable if undertaken by a doctor, or under their supervision, in a medical establishment approved for abortions, whether public or private, with the express consent of the woman. In other cases, the Penal Code provided various terms of imprisonment for both the mother and the doctors who performed abortions outside of the law.

Organic Law 2/2010[edit]

On 3 March 2010, the Organic Law 2/2010 of sexual and reproductive health and abortion was promulgated. This law is to ensure fundamental rights in the field of sexual and reproductive health established by the World Health Organization (WHO), regulating the conditions of abortion and establishing the corresponding obligations of public authorities.[15][16][17] The law came into force on 5 July 2010.

In Title II, Articles 13 and 14, the decriminalization of the practice of abortion during the first 14 weeks of pregnancy is specified. During this time, the woman can take a free and informed decision on the termination of her pregnancy. There will be no third party intervention in the decision.

Article 15 describes that the term of the possibility of abortion increases up to 22 weeks in cases of "serious risks to life or health of the mother or fetus". From the twenty-second week, pregnancy may be interrupted only on two assumptions: that "fetal anomalies incompatible with life are detected" or that "an extremely serious and incurable disease is detected within the fetus at the time of diagnosis and is confirmed by a clinical committee".[4]

Articles 13 and 14 of Title II of Law 2/2010[edit]

Article 13. Common requirements. These are the requirements of the voluntary termination of pregnancy:

  1. It is practiced by a physician or under ones supervision.
  2. It takes place in an accredited public or private health center.
  3. It is done with the express written consent of the pregnant woman or, where appropriate, the legal representative, in accordance with the provisions of Law 41/2002, Basic Regulating Patient Autonomy and Rights and Obligations regarding information and clinical documentation. Express consent may be waived in the case provided for in Article 9.2.b) of that Act
  4. For women aged 16 to 17 years, consent to the abortion lies exclusively with them in accordance with the general arrangements for older women. At least one of the legal representatives, parent, people with parental or guardian of women between these ages must be informed of the decision of the women.

This information may be dispensed with when the minor reasonably claims that this will cause a serious conflict, manifested in certain danger of family violence, threats, coercion, abuse, or a situation of homelessness.

Article 14. Termination of pregnancy at the request of the woman.

Pregnancy can be terminated within the first fourteen weeks of gestation at the request of the pregnant woman, provided that these requirements have been followed:

a) the pregnant woman has been informed on the rights, benefits and public aid to mothers, on the terms set forth in paragraphs 2 and 4 of Article 17 of this Act

b) the pregnant woman has completed a period of at least three days, from the moment the information was given to her mentioned in the previous paragraph to the realization of the intervention.[4]

Approval process of the new law[edit]

In 2009, a reform of the 1985 law that regulated abortion was processed based on three cases delimited by a new law that would permit, under any circumstances, intervention during the first 14 weeks of gestation, and until week 22 if there is serious risk to the life or health of the pregnant woman or risk of serious abnormalities to the fetus. In case of detection of fetal anomalies incompatible with life, there would be no time limit for abortion. The new law would also allow young people between 16 and 17 to have an abortion without requiring parental consent.[18]

This reform, supported by the Spanish Socialist Party and endorsed by the Council of State, drew criticism from the conservative People's Party, the Catholic Church and anti-abortion groups.[19][20][21]

Law 2/2010 of sexual and reproductive health and abortion was finally passed by 184 votes in favor, 158 against and one abstention. The law was supported by PSOE, the ruling party of Spain led by Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and the Minister for Equality Bibiana Aido. The parties that supported the government were the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV), Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC), United Left (IU), Initiative for Catalonia Greens (ICV), Galician Nationalist Bloc (BNG), Nafarroa Bai, and two members of Convergence and Union (CiU).

The People's Party was the only party that opposed the adoption of the new law. It was also opposed by some members of other parties such as the Canarian Coalition, Navarrese People's Union (UPN), Union, Progress and Democracy (UPyD) and seven MPs from CiU. Outside parliament civil society organizations also expressed their rejection: representatives of the Spanish Episcopal Conference of the Catholic Church, Pro Life Associations and the Institute for Family Policies (IPF). In 2009, a survey on Spanish youth conducted by the Sociological Research Center or Centro de Investigaciones Sociológicas indicated that 55% of young people felt that it was only the woman who should decide the issue, one in four believed that society should place certain limits, while 15% objected to abortion in all cases.

The proposed amendments to the law of 2010 by the new PP government of Mariano Rajoy[edit]

Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón, Minister of Justice for the conservative PP government led by Mariano Rajoy announced at his first appearance in parliament in January 2012, shortly after taking office, his intention to reform the Abortion Act passed by the Socialist government led by Rodriguez Zapatero, which is a law based on a time-limit model favoured by most European countries but was contested by the Catholic Church in Spain and the People's Party (especially on the issue of whether minors between 16 and 18 may abort regardless of their parents' consent), to return to the model of the 1982 Act, in which women had to argue the grounds for their decision to abort.[22]

On 20 December 2013, the Government of Spain published its final draft law of abortion: Women undergoing abortion were to be considered "victims", and the practice would only be lawful in the case of rape or when there was a serious (but as yet undefined) health risk to the mother or the fetus. The likelihood of a child being born with disabilities would not be an acceptable justification for abortion.

Under the new law, women under 18 would require parental consent and parental accompaniment during relevant consultations. Those seeking abortion in Spain would need approval from two independent doctors who would not be permitted to participate in the actual procedure.

The Spanish Association of Accredited Abortion Clinics estimated that about 100,000 of the 118,000 abortions carried out in 2012 would be illegal under the new legislation. The revision was part of the 2011 election manifesto of the Party Popular, which, strongly influenced by the Roman Catholic church[citation needed], was vigorously opposed by most opposition parties and women's groups, who saw it as an attack on women's rights.

In September 2014, PM Mariano Rajoy announced that the government would abandon the draft law due to lack of consensus, and that the only reform to the 2010 law that the government will seek is that 16 and 17-year-old women will require parental consent to have an abortion. As a result of this withdrawal, Minister of Justice Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón announced his resignation.[23]

Number of abortions in Spain[edit]

In 2009, the number of abortions was 112,000, about 4000 less than the previous year (115,812), the first time it had decreased since 1997. According to Trinidad Jimenez, then Minister for Health and Social Policy of Spain, the decline was due to over-the-counter sales in pharmacies for the so-called morning-after pill which was liberalized in late September 2009.[24][25]

In Spain, the evolution of the number of abortions, according to statistics from the Ministry of Health,[26] is as follows:

Year Notifiable centres of
Induced abortion
Number of abortions Rate per 1,000 women
1995 49,367[27]
1996 51,002
1997 49,578
1998 117 53,847 6.00
1999 123 58,399 6.52
2000 121 63,756 7.14
2001 121 69,857 7.66
2002 124 77,125 8.46
2003 128 79,788 8.77
2004 133 84,985[28] 8.94
2005 134 91,664[29] 9.60
2006 135 101,592 10.62
2007 137 112,138[30] 11.49[31]
2008 137 115,812 11.78
2009 141 111,482[24][32] 11.41
2010 147 113,031[26][33][34] 11.49
2011 172 118,359[35] 12.44
2012[26] 189 113,419 12.44
2013[26] 198 108,690 12.12
2014[26] 191 94,796 10.46
2015[26] 200 94,188 10.40
2016[26] 201 93,131 10.36

Surgical and medical abortions in Spain[edit]

Induced abortion or termination of unwanted pregnancy can be performed by two methods:

Medical abortion - Using drugs or medications such as mifepristone and misoprostol.

Surgical abortion - Clinic or hospital intervention : aspiration, dilation and curettage.

In Europe the use of medical abortion is generally broad, although its use varies according to countries, such as in Portugal: 67% of induced abortions, 49% in France, in England 40% and Wales, Scotland and Finland 70%.[36] In Spain only 4% in Italy less than 4% since the beginning of the marketing of mifepristone in December 2009.[36][37]

Other information[edit]

Abortion was available in a restricted form from July 5, 1985.[38] Under the previous law it was only allowed under the following conditions: to preserve the mental health of the mother (in which case two specialists have to approve); if the pregnancy was a byproduct of rape or incest reported to the police (the abortion must be performed in the first twelve weeks); if the fetus would suffer from deformities or mental handicaps upon birth (two specialists had to agree on the findings); or if the mother's physical health was in immediate danger (in which case an abortion could be performed without the consent of the woman's family physician or the woman herself).[38]

Under the previous law, the threshold of "endangering the mother's mental health" was reported to be very low, making it a loophole for abortions on-demand.[39] The abortion rate has more than doubled from 54,000 in 1998 to 112,000 in 2007.[40]

In 2009, the Socialist government started to liberalize current abortion laws, sending a new law through the lower house of Parliament which would allow abortion on-demand for pregnancies through the fourteenth week.[40] The government almost succeeded in lowering the age of consent for abortions to 16, but in the end the bill states that girls aged 16 and 17 must inform their parents (but do not need parental consent) for an abortion except if the girl comes from an abusive household and such news will cause more strife.[40] An estimated one million protesters turned to the streets of Madrid in protest of the proposed abortion law changes.[39] The law won final approval on February 24, 2010[41] and came into force on July 5, 2010.


  1. ^ "Spain abandons plan to introduce tough new abortion laws". The Guardian. 23 September 2014.
  2. ^ https://www.thelocal.es/20141230/abortion-numbers-continue-to-fall-in-spain
  3. ^ Ley Orgánica 2/2010 de salud sexual y reproductiva y de la interrupción voluntaria del embarazo.
  4. ^ a b c Ley Orgánica 2/2010 de salud sexual y reproductiva y de la interrupción voluntaria del embarazo
  5. ^ Ley Orgánica 9/1985
  6. ^ El PP llevará al Constitucional la futura ley de plazos del aborto, El País, 12 February 2009
  7. ^ El Constitucional admite el recurso del PP contra la ley del aborto, El País, 30 June 2010
  8. ^ Ibáñez y García Velasco
  9. ^ Francisca García Gallego, La práctica del aborto en España, Página Abierta, 194, julio de 2008, Francisca García Gallego es ginecóloga y miembro de ACAI (Asociación de Clínicas Acreditadas para la Interrupción del Embarazo).
  10. ^ a b Gerardo Hernández Rodríguez. El aborto en España: análisis de un proceso socio-político. Universidad Pontificia de Comillas (in Spanish). pp. 73 and ss. ISBN 84-87840-15-9. Retrieved 23 July 2012. Por lo que se refiere a las razones esgrimidas para rechazar el aborto [...] las expresiones [...] "homicidio", "crimen", "asesinato" son ampliamente utilizadas.; Asimismo, las razones dadas, basándose en la salvaguarda de la vida, son abundantes en ambos sectores. Unos a favor de la vida del nuevo ser y oytros pensando en la vida de la madre. [...] En lo que coinciden prácticamente todos, [...] es en la necesidad de una permanente toma de conciencia frente al problema por parte de la Administración [...]. La II República Española legalizé el aborto siendo ministra de Sanidad Federica Montseny.
  11. ^ Patricia Campello (15 February 2014). "La Segunda República despenalizó el aborto con la ley más avanzada de Europa". Público. Archived from the original on 22 February 2014.
  12. ^ "Decreto de Regulación de la Interrupción Artificial del Embarazo" [Decree on the Regulation of the Artificial Interruption of Pregnancy]. CGT Burgos.
  13. ^ José María Garat (12 May 1937). "En Cataluña existe ya el aborto legal" [In Catalonia there is already legal abortion]. Mundo Gráfico – via National Library of Spain.
  14. ^ "Ley Orgánica 9/1985, del 5 de julio, de reforma del Artículo 417 bis del Código Penal" (in Spanish). Boletín Oficial del Estado. Archived from the original on 30 June 2012. Retrieved 23 July 2012.
  15. ^ ICPD Program of Action ver ChapterVII, Reproductive Rights and Reproductive Health
  16. ^ "WHO: Reproductive health". Retrieved 23 July 2012.
  17. ^ "Definición de Salud Reproductiva de la OMS, en RHO". Archived from the original on 2009-01-06. Retrieved 2012-07-22.
  18. ^ Erika Montañés / EP. "Aprobada la reforma de la ley que permite el aborto libre las primeras 14 semanas". ABC (in Spanish). Retrieved 23 July 2012.
  19. ^ P. Rafael y S. García. "El Consejo de Estado avala la ley del aborto". Público (in Spanish). Retrieved 23 July 2012.
  20. ^ Jesús Bastante. "La Iglesia quiere excomulgar a quienes voten la Ley del Aborto". Público (in Spanish). Retrieved 23 July 2012.
  21. ^ EFE. "El PP enmienda la Ley del Aborto porque "desprotege" a las menores y al nonato". RTVE (in Spanish). Retrieved 23 July 2012.
  22. ^ "Rajoy juega a la Contrarreforma". El País (in Spanish). Retrieved 23 July 2012.
  23. ^ "Spain abortion: Rajoy scraps tighter law". BBC News. 23 September 2014.
  24. ^ a b El número de abortos baja en España por primera vez desde su legalización, en 1985, 20 minutos, 13/9/2010
  25. ^ Emily Thigpen, 3 de abril de 2009, Datos concretos sobre las interrupciones voluntarias del embarazo en España
  26. ^ a b c d e f g Ministerio de Sanidad, España, Estadísticas IVE
  27. ^ El número de abortos en España ha aumentado un 73% en 10 años, El País, 27/12/2005
  28. ^ En España se practicaron cerca de 85.000 abortos en 2004, Informativos telecinco
  29. ^ Los abortos crecieron casi un 8% en 2005, El País, 29 December 2006
  30. ^ El número de abortos practicados en España durante 2007 aumenta, Soitu, 2 December 2008
  31. ^ La mitad de los abortos en España se practican a mujeres inmigrantes. Las claves: * La tasa española de abortos sigue siendo de las más bajas de las europeas, y muy por detrás de EEUU. * El uso del preservativo ha disminuido, mientras que ha aumentado la 'píldora del día después', 20 minutos, 27 July 2007
  32. ^ El número de abortos baja por primera vez en España desde 1999, Público, 13 December 2010
  33. ^ La nueva Ley del aborto no disparó el número de interrupciones. En 2010 se realizaron 113.031 intervenciones, un 1,3% más que en 2009, 13 December 2011, Público (España)
  34. ^ Interrupción Voluntaria del Embarazo, Ministerio de Sanidad, Política Social e Igualdad, - Datos completos 2010
  35. ^ El aborto sube un 5% en un año de crisis
  36. ^ a b Gérvas J. Aborto a domicilio Archived 2011-09-13 at the Wayback Machine, Acta Sanitaria, 13 September 2010
  37. ^ España, a la cola europea en aborto farmacológico, Solo un 4% de las interrupciones se realiza por este método, mientras en la UE se acercan a la mitad, 23/11/2010
  38. ^ a b Termination of Pregnancy & Abortion in Spain
  39. ^ a b Huge crowd protests easing Spain's abortion law
  40. ^ a b c Spanish Parliament approves abortion bill, sends to Senate
  41. ^ Spain OKs new abortion law