Spain begins process of amending abortion law

Spain may have its abortion law by the end of the year. The right-wing opposition has agreed to cooperate when the present law -- recently ruled unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court -- goes through an amendment process.

The law rejected by the court would have allowed abortion in the case of rape, danger to the mother's life, and malformation of the fetus.

A committee of Spain's Cortes (parliament) will simply incorporate the court's recommendations, namely additional safeguards to ensure against eventual abuse of the law. This means more doctors checking up on a case, for instance.

The amendment process is the lesser of two evils for the right-wing opposition. If parliamentarians had agreed on drawing up a new law from scratch, the ruling Socialists could have tried to introduce new elements on the basis of the court's implicit acceptance of abortion.

Once amended, the law, which passed both houses of parliament 18 months ago, will go back to parliament for a new vote.

The Socialist speaker of the house, Gregorio Peces-Barba, said earlier that he was confident an abortion law would be in effect before the end of the year.

A government poll released Thursday revealed that 75 percent of the population favors abortion in the cases of danger to the mother's health and fetus malformation, but only 63 percent in the case of rape. Overall acceptance of the present law is 65 percent. Right-wing Popular Alliance voters follow the same pattern, with a majority favoring the overall law.

When the Constitutional Court ruled against the abortion legislation, it brought into focus the growing conflict between the Socialist government of Prime Minister Felipe Gonz'alez and the 12-member court, which has yet to decide on the government's most important legislation.

The right-wing opposition has used the court as a Catch-22. A new law does not go into effect while an appeal of its legality is pending. Through such appeals, the opposition has effectively blocked the government's key education reform and its law on trade union rights. Legislation to do away with the practice of appealing to the court before a law is enforced is before the Constitutional Court.

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