Spanish PM scraps plan to sharply restrict abortions as consensus fails, justice chief resigns

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Anti-abortion activists hold banners reading "Rajoy: Will you betray me?" and "Life is sacred" during a protest in Madrid, Spain, Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014. Anti-abortion activists staged demonstrations in Madrid and other Spanish cities in a bid to pressure the government not to drop plans to introduce a reform that would seriously limit women's chances of having abortions. News reports say the government has decided to scrap the much-promised reform because of the widespread opposition it has roused. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)

MADRID — The Spanish government has scrapped plans to restrict the availability of abortion because there was no consensus for change, the prime minister said Tuesday, in a move that brought the resignation of the justice minister who was in charge of introducing a new law.

Spain now allows abortion without restrictions in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy.

The government had promised to restrict abortion to only cases of rape or serious health risks. But the proposal triggered widespread denunciation, with critics saying it would put Spain back 40 years in terms of women's rights.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said his government had battled to get wide agreement on the changes but failed. He said abortion is an issue that "affects the profound and personal convictions of all citizens" and needs to be taken seriously.

"We can't have a law that will be changed when another government comes in," said Rajoy.

Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon called a news conference to announce his resignation, saying he had proved "unable to turn (the government's plan) into law."

Rajoy said the government would seek instead to change the current law so that 16- and 17-year-olds will once again have to obtain their parents' permission.

Rajoy's Popular Party, which has long sided with the Roman Catholic Church on moral and social issues, had made the change one of its main promises in the 2011 vote that brought it to power.

Local media said the government was ditching the plan because of fears of a voter backlash in municipal and general elections next year.

On Sunday, several thousand people held an anti-abortion protest in Madrid, with some warning they would withdraw their vote from the Popular Party if the government backtracked on the abortion restrictions.

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