16 Feb, 2023 @ 17:25
3 mins read

Spain’s Congress gives definitive approval to ‘trans law’ and abortion reform

Carmen Calvo

TWO controversial pieces of legislation, the so-called ‘trans law’ and a reform to Spain’s abortion regulations, were definitively approved today by lawmakers in the Congress of Deputies. Getting to this point has not just caused bitter divisions between the government and opposition, but also within the governing Socialist Party (PSOE). 

The reform to the abortion law includes a number of new measures. Currently, more than 80% of terminations are carried out in private clinics in Spain. The changes will force regional governments to ensure that public healthcare resources are available for the procedures. 

What’s more, the reforms introduce sex education in schools, and also include paid sick leave for women who are suffering from period pains. 

The reforms also undo a change introduced to Spain’s abortion law by the conservative Popular Party (PP) when it was in power. Young women aged 16 and 17 will no longer need parental permission to access a termination, as is currently required. 

In terms of the process of accessing an abortion, the reforms also mean that women will not have to be given information on the assistance available to them should they opt to continue with their pregnancy, nor will they have to wait three days before taking a definitive decision about the procedure. 

The legislation received the votes of the PSOE and its junior coalition partner, Unidas Podemos, as well as the smaller groups in Congress that traditionally support the minority administration of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez. These include the Catalan Republican Left (ERC) and Basque nationalist party EH Bildu.

Irene Montero Presenta Un Proyecto Pa La Igualdad Efectiva Entre Hombres Y Mujeres En El Trabajo
Equality Minister Irene Montero in a file photo from 2020.

The issue of abortion has caused friction between the PP and far-right Vox, two groups who govern in coalition in the Castilla y Leon region and who could end up forming a national government depending on the outcome of the general election due to be held at the end of this year. 

Vox, which is vehemently anti-abortion, has accused the PP of ‘betrayal’ after its leader, Alberto Nuñez Feijoo, came out in support of the current model in Spain, where abortion on demand is available during the first 14 weeks of term, and up to 22 weeks in the case of severe abnormalities.

When asked whether abortion was a ‘right’, however, Feijoo wavered and eventually stated that it was a right, but not a fundamental one. 

Trans law controversy

The passage of the trans law, however, has been even more controversial. Under the new legislation, people in Spain will have the right to choose their name and sex on their DNI identity card without any previous steps. 

This will apply to anyone from the age of 16 upward, although for minors there are some conditions. Those aged 12 to 14 will need the blessing of the courts, while 14- to 16-year-olds will need the permission of their parents or legal guardians.

It was this element of the legislation that caused the biggest rift between the coalition partners, the PSOE and Unidas Podemos. In fact, it even prompted divisions within the PSOE itself, and was rejected by parts of the feminist movement. 

As evidence of the division, former deputy minister Carmen Calvo of the PSOE abstained in the vote. This is very unusual in Spanish politics, where lawmakers nearly always toe the party line, and are fined as much as €600 for not doing so.

‘I’m in favour of there being a law, but not this one,’ said Calvo in December when she abstained during the first vote on the trans law in Congress. 

Other points in the trans law include a ban on conversion therapies, even when the person in question consents; access to assisted reproduction on the national health service; and the joint parentage of children born to unmarried lesbian couples. 

Equality Minister Irene Montero of Unidas Podemos said in Congress today that there was still more to be done. ‘I’m aware that the road does not end here,’ she said. ‘That we have not managed to include the non-binary realities, immigrant trans people and others that we have been discovering as we have advanced. We have taken a giant step, however, the biggest that we could,’ she added.

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Simon Hunter

Simon Hunter has been living in Madrid since the year 2000 and has worked as a journalist and translator practically since he arrived. For 16 years he was at the English Edition of Spanish daily EL PAÍS, editing the site from 2014 to 2022, and is currently one of the Spain reporters at The Times. He is also a voice actor, and can be heard telling passengers to "mind the gap" on Spain's AVLO high-speed trains.

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