Spain has taken a first step towards relaxing its stringent laws on abortion, but the Socialist government, which promised terminations on demand, is being accused of using the issue to deflect attention from economic woes.
For now abortion is illegal in Spain, except for certain health reasons, but different regions apply the exemption rule more liberally than others.
Spanish Equality Minister Bibiana Aido said: “We cannot allow this situation to continue, where a woman who wants to legally end a pregnancy can not, or she can face different treatment depending on where she lives.”
An expert panel will now consider far-reaching reforms.
Many abortion clinics claim they are harrassed by the authorities. There were police raids in Madrid and Barcelona last year.
Yolanda Iglesias of the CEOF, a feminist association, said: “To guarantee the safety of pregnant women, and the health professionals who treat them, we have to remove the issue of abortion from the law books.”
But the conservative opposition has labelled the abortion debate a smokescreen for more serious political issues.
The Roman Catholic Church has also attacked the ruling Socialists.