SPANISH MPs narrowly voted to continue moving forward with legislation to drastically limit access to abortion in the country.
In a secret ballot, initiated by the Socialist Parliamentary Group, MPs voted 183 to 151 against abandoning the proposed changes to the abortion law.
Tabled in late December by the governing People’s party, the legislation seeks to enact some of the toughest abortion legislation in Europe.
Widely attacked by women’s groups as a step backwards, the changes will make abortion illegal except in the case of rape or when there is a risk to the physical and mental health of the mother.
Any woman wanting an abortion would require two doctors to verify these circumstances were being met.
The secret vote was an attempt to thwart the bill before it is put to a general vote. The idea, said Carmen Montón of the Spanish Socialist Workers party, came from concerns over the legislation that she and other opposition members heard in parliamentary corridors.
“We want PP’s parliamentarians – especially the women – to have the freedom to express how they really feel about the issue,” she said prior to the vote. “We’re trying to take away the excuse that they would be penalized by the barons of the party.”
The secret vote was intended to encourage MPs to vote with their constituents rather than party allegiances in mind, she said. “The majority of Spaniards don’t want this reform.”
Mariano Rajoy has consistently defended the changes, arguing they fulfilled an electoral promise.
Polls show between 70% and 80% are opposed to rolling back the country’s abortion laws.
Organised action against the proposed legislation has been taking place almost every other day across Spain.
This week saw hundreds of women walk into regional government offices demanding that their bodies be entered in commercial registries, normally reserved for cars and airplanes.
Activists explained to confused bureaucrats that they wanted official certification that their bodies belong to them.