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Restricting Abortion, Spanish Style

Eric Metaxas | Author | Updated: Feb 19, 2014

Restricting Abortion, Spanish Style


In late December, the government of Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy [rah-hoy] proposed significant changes to the country’s four-year-old law governing abortion.

The left-leaning newspaper el Pais called the proposed law “the most restrictive abortion law in the democratic world.” Whether or not that’s true, it’s a debate that should be of interest outside of Spain—in particular for what it says about our own abortion regime.

To fully appreciate what’s at stake, a brief history lesson is in order: Abortion was illegal in Spain until 1985. Then, the Socialist government of Felipe Gonzalez legalized the procedure in cases of rape, “serious risk to the physical and mental health of the mother,” and “malformations or defects, physical or mental, in the fetus.”

The 1985 law didn’t create a right to abortion-on-demand. That “right” only became a part of Spanish law in 2010, when another Socialist government, led by José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, legalized abortion-on-demand through the first fourteen weeks.

Rajoy’s center-right Popular Party is proposing a more restrictive version of the 1985 law. It limits abortion to cases of rape or where there is grave danger to the life or physical and/or mental health of the woman, a determination to be made by physicians.

In an interview with el Pais, the Spanish Minister of Justice defended eliminating abortion in cases of fetal abnormality by saying that being disabled should not result in unequal treatment under the law. That certainly sounds logical to me.

Of course, the response to the proposed law has been predictable. A Newsweek headline proclaimed “Spain’s Government Pushes Unpopular Abortion Ban,” and the accompanying article told readers about “tens of thousands” at an opposition rally in Madrid.

What none of these articles mention is that more than a million Spaniards gathered in Madrid just four years ago to protest the legalization of abortion-on-demand.

Now, it’s unclear whether the proposed law will be enacted. I pray it will. And I’m grateful for the efforts of the Spanish government. Not only because it’s a step in the direction of protecting unborn human life, but also because of the light it shines on abortion in our country.

What stands out in researching the history of Spain’s abortion laws is that, even under socialist governments, they afford far more protection to unborn children than ours do.

The 2010 law, promulgated by actual socialists, limited abortion on demand to the first fourteen weeks of pregnancy. From the fifteenth to the twenty-second week, abortion is only available “in cases of serious risks to life or health of the mother or fetus.”

After the twenty-second week, the only grounds for abortion are when "fetal anomalies incompatible with life are detected" or when "an extremely serious and incurable disease is detected.”

Millions of American pro-lifers would be thrilled if we could enact similar legislation here in the United States. But in January, the Supreme Court ruled that Arizona cannot enforce a ban on abortions after twenty weeks—leaving us as one of the few nations that allow abortion-on-demand after fetal viability, a step not even Spanish socialists are willing to take.

All of which makes America’s current abortion laws truly radical.

Those of us who work to protect the dignity of every human life at every stage should be encouraged by these developments in Spain—and as I’ve said before, in the fact that Americans are growing increasingly uncomfortable with unfettered abortion. And as for America’s pro-abortion forces, they may soon begin to realize that they—to borrow a phrase—are on the wrong side of history.

BreakPoint is a Christian worldview ministry that seeks to build and resource a movement of Christians committed to living and defending Christian worldview in all areas of life. Begun by Chuck Colson in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print. Today BreakPoint commentaries, co-hosted by Eric Metaxas and John Stonestreet, air daily on more than 1,200 outlets with an estimated weekly listening audience of eight million people. Feel free to contact us at where you can read and search answers to common questions.

Eric Metaxas is a co-host of BreakPoint Radio and a best-selling author whose biographies, children's books, and popular apologetics have been translated into more than a dozen languages.

Publication date: February 19, 2014

Restricting Abortion, Spanish Style