Spain: more than a million march against new abortion laws

 More than a million people demonstrated in Madrid on Saturday to show their  opposition to government plans to extend Spain's abortion law.

Under the present law, dating from 1985, abortion is allowed in cases of rape and when there are signs of foetal abnormality. Spanish women can also end a pregnancy if their physical or psychological health is at risk. In practice, the last category has been used to justify the vast majority of abortions - of which there were 112,000 in 2007.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero wants to introduce abortion on demand for available all women up until the 14th week of pregnancy.

The draft law currently before parliament would also permit girls aged 16 and 17 to have an abortion without their parents' knowledge.

The government claims its proposal will make abortion safer - by ensuring the procedure does not happen beyond 22 weeks of a pregnancy.

In recent years shocking cases have emerged in which doctors performed abortions on women eight months pregnant, with the justification that their mental health was under threat.

The march brought together more than 40 religious and civil society groups calling for the government to withdraw the draft bill.

A broad cross-section of Spanish society were represented, with people of all ages, parents with children, priests, nuns, immigrant families and organised groups coached in from all over the country.

“We invited all 48 million Spaniards, regardless of the political party they belong to, whether they wear a cassock or practice their religion in a synagogue or a mosque,” said Benigno Blanco, the chairman of the Family Forum, a Catholic coalition.

The demonstrators gathered in the heart of Madrid under an enormous blue banner emblazoned with the simple message: 'Every life matters.'

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