Spain protesters rally against tougher abortion law

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Women have taken to the streets over the draft law, as Tom Burridge reports

Thousands of Spaniards have protested in Madrid against a draft law backed by the government that would restrict the right to abortion.

Activists carried banners saying "Allow mothers to decide" and "Deciding makes us free".

The law would limit abortion to cases of rape, and instances where the health of the mother was at serious risk.

Under current legislation, any woman can have an abortion within the first 14 weeks of becoming pregnant.

'Risking women's lives'

Correspondents say Saturday's demonstration was one of the largest since Spain's centre-right government backed the new legislation in December.

Supported by several Spanish opposition parties, protesters called on Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon, who drafted the law, to resign.

"I came because I think this takes our country back many years regarding women's rights, criminalising something that shouldn't be a crime," said demonstrator Ana Alonso.

"We overcame this a long time ago and we have a right to have abortion performed under proper conditions without risking women's lives and their health."

Image source, AFP
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Demonstrators carried a figure of the justice minister dressed up as a vampire
Image source, AFP
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Women's groups travelled from across Spain and other countries to take part
Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Correspondents say this was one of the biggest demonstrations against the proposals

The new law says early termination is no longer a right, and would only be allowed in cases of rape or when two doctors judge the mother's health to be at serious risk.

Currently women have the right to abort up to the 14th week of pregnancy, rising to 22 weeks in case of foetal deformities.

The current law, brought in by Spain's previous Socialist government in 2010, was opposed by the Catholic Church and conservative groups.

They say abortion law should not be based on a woman's right to decide, but the right to life of the unborn child.

The ruling Popular Party made changing the law one of its main promises in its 2011 election campaign.

The opposition Socialist Party has warned that the measure would send women into dangerous backstreet clinics for abortions.

The law still needs approval of parliament but is expected to pass because the Popular Party has a large majority.