Spain’s Socialist-led coalition government is preparing a law that would allow women over the age of 16 to have abortions without permission from their parents or guardians, and introduce up to five days of menstrual leave a month.
The draft legislation, which is due to be approved by the cabinet next week, is intended to ensure that abortion is available to all those using the public health system, and that menstruation is treated as a proper health issue.
The legislation would do away with a 2015 measure, introduced by the conservative People’s party, which requires women aged 16 and 17 to obtain parental consent for abortions. It would also scrap the current three-day period of reflection for those seeking termination.
Formally known as the law for the protection of sexual and reproductive rights and the guaranteeing of the voluntary termination of pregnancies, the draft measures would introduce an official allowing register medical staff who object to abortion to opt out of involvement in the procedure.
Currently, some women have to either travel long distances to find a public hospital willing to perform terminations or pay for private treatment.
“It is this government’s duty and its intention to safeguard the right to abortion in the public health system and do away with the obstacles that prevent women from deciding when it comes to their bodies and their lives,” the equality minister, Irene Montero, said in February.
“The voluntary termination of a pregnancy will be guaranteed in all public hospitals. For that to happen, all centers with obstetrics and gynaecology services will need to have staff who guarantee the right to voluntary termination of a pregnancy. We will scrupulously respect the right to conscientious objection and we will make it thoroughly compatible with women’s right to decide when it comes to their bodies.”
Other parts of the bill would end VAT on menstrual products and allow between three and five days of leave each month for women who have incapacitating periods.
According to the Spanish Gynaecological and Obstetric Society, a third of women experience dysmenorrhea, or painful menstruation.
“When there’s a problem that can’t be solved medically, we think it’s very sensible to have temporary sick leave,” Ángela Rodríguez, the secretary of state for equality, told El Periódico in March.
“It’s important to be clear about what a painful period is – we’re not talking about slight discomfort, but about serious symptoms such as diarrhoea, fever and bad headaches.”
Last year, a handful of local administrations in Spain were among the first in western Europe to recognize period pain and offer their employees menstrual leave.
The city council of Girona in Catalonia said the move was designed to eliminate “the taboo that exists around menstruation and the pain that some women suffer”.