The Spanish Congress on Thursday finally approved new laws expanding abortion and transgender rights for teenagers, while making Spain the first country in Europe to allow workers paid menstrual leave.
The driving force behind the new legislation has been Equality Minister Irene Montero, who belongs to the junior member in Spain’s socialist (PSOE) led coalition government, the left-wing Podemos party.
The changes to sexual and reproductive rights now mean that 16- and 17-year-olds in Spain will be able to undergo an abortion without any parental consent. Period products will now be offered free in schools and prisons, while state-run health centres will do the same with hormonal contraceptives and the morning after pill. The menstrual leave measure allows workers suffering debilitating period pain to take paid time off.
In addition, the changes enshrine in law the right to have an abortion in a state hospital. Currently more than 80% of termination procedures in Spain are carried out in private clinics due to a high number of doctors in the public system who refuse to perform them — with many citing religious reasons.
Under the new system, state hospital doctors won’t be forced to carry out abortions, provided they’ve already registered their objections in writing.
The abortion law builds on legislation passed in 2010 that represented a major shift for a traditionally Catholic country, transforming Spain into one of the most progressive countries in Europe on reproductive rights. Spain’s Constitutional Court last week rejected a challenge by the right-wing People’s Party (PP) against allowing abortions in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy. ALSO READ: Spain’s constitutional court finally rejects abortion law challenge, from 13 years ago.
A separate package of reforms also approved by MPs on Thursday strengthened transgender rights, including allowing any citizen over 16 years old to change their legally registered gender without medical supervision.
Minors between 12-13 years old will need a judge’s authorisation to change, while those between 14 and 16 must be accompanied by their parents or legal guardians.
Previously, transgender people needed a diagnosis by several doctors of gender dysphoria. The second law also bans so-called ‘conversion therapy’ for LGBTQ people and provides state support for lesbians and single women seeking IVF treatment.
The coalition government remains under fire for another of Irene Montero’s initiatives, a new sexual consent law that was intended to increase protection against rape but has inadvertently allowed hundreds of sex offenders to have prison sentences reduced.
The ‘Only Yes Means Yes’ Law makes verbal consent the key component in cases of alleged sexual assault. The government is now struggling to come up with an amended version and end the controversy ahead of elections later this year. ALSO READ: Spanish government seeks to close loophole in sexual consent law.
Un sincero agradecimiento del Gobierno a las personas trans y LGTBI 🏳️⚧️🏳️🌈💜 pic.twitter.com/xJVSVis6Vu— Irene Montero (@IreneMontero) February 16, 2023
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