MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
In Spain, the government has reversed itself and dropped plans to create one of the toughest abortion laws in Europe. Ruling conservatives had promised to roll back abortion, which has been legal there since 1985. From Madrid, Lauren Frayer reports the debate has been playing out for months.
LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: Spain's streets have been filled with dueling demonstrations in recent months - women's groups arguing for abortion rights, church groups lobbying for more restrictions on the procedure. The debate was invigorated by ruling conservatives' plan to ban abortion - except in cases of rape or danger to the mother's health. Polls show most Spaniards want abortion to remain legal. Three years ago they elected a conservative government, mostly for its economic policy. But conservatives thought they'd also been given a mandate to enact social reforms - at the top of the list, banning abortion. That was a miscalculation says Luis Enrique Sanchez, president of Planned Parenthood Spain.
LUIS ENRIQUE SANCHEZ: (Spanish spoken).
FRAYER: A majority of Spaniards from all beliefs and ideologies agree with the current abortion law; they don't want it changed, he says. The population just isn't demanding it, even most conservatives. There was a huge backlash by women's groups in Spain - protests at Spanish consulates around the world and rare dissent from within conservative party ranks led by lawmaker Celia Villalobos.
CELIA VILLALOBOS: (Speaking Spanish).
FRAYER: This is about private morals, the way you understand the world. I vote my conscience on abortion, she says, even if it sets up a conflict with my party. Spain would've been the only European nation to backtrack on a decade's-long trend toward making abortion legal and accessible.
PRIME MINISTER MARIANO RAJOY: (Speaking Spanish).
FRAYER: Facing reelection, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy made an about-face this week and scrapped the abortion bill, after month's-long delay in Parliament. His justice minister is quitting politics in disgust. And now there's a backlash from the other side. Anti-abortion protesters screamed murderer at anyone going in and out of ruling party headquarters this week. Protester Maria Abellenas says Rajoy broke his campaign promise.
MARIA ABELLENAS: They told me something, and they are not going to do it. And I don't understand why because it's about the right of life. I mean, there is nothing more important than that.
FRAYER: Others say they'll take out their anger at the ballot box. Prime Minister Rajoy has managed to aggravate his opponents and alienate his base with elections coming next year. For NPR News, I'm Lauren Frayer in Madrid.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.