Spain approves menstrual leave and abortion for over 16s without parental consent bill
VAT on menstrual hygiene products to remain at 10% despite Podemos and Catalan government calls for it to be lowered
The Spanish government has approved a bill allowing women over the age of 16 to have abortions without the consent of their parents or guardians.
Pending congressional go-ahead, the cabinet passed the measure easing the previous abortion law from 2010, when it was modified by the conservative People's Party.
The main change is that 16- and 17-year-olds, as well as disabled women, will no longer need permission from their parents or guardians to have an abortion.
"I am sure they still will rely on the support of their parents, relatives and friends, but they will make the final decision themselves," said equality minister, Irene Montero.
The bill also gets rid of the three-day reflection period for people seeking abortions, which will have to be available in all public medical centers while respecting conscientious objectors. Most abortions currently take place in private or semi-private clinics, although they are refunded by social security, and some women end up having to travel long distances to obtain one.
The legislation allows for menstrual pain leave for however long doctors deem it to be necessary. According to the equality minister, Irene Montero, Spain will become "the first country in Europe" to pass such a measure if it is greenlighted by lawmakers in congress.
"Working with pain or having to take painkillers to work is over," she said during a press conference on Tuesday. "Periods will no longer be taboo, and menstrual health will be part of the legal framework for the first time ever."
"I am sure they will still rely on the support of their parents, relatives and friends, but 16- and 17-year-olds will make the final decision themselves"
Irene Montero · Spanish equality minister
Doctors will sign off on paid leave if menstruation causes "incapacitating pain," as is the case for women with conditions such as endometriosis.
Other measures in the bill include sex education for students of all ages in order to combat sexism, promote healthy relationships and prevent STIs as well as unwanted pregnancies, while morning after pills should be available in all pharmacies and free in medical centers.
"Women who choose to be mothers" will also be allowed to take pre-childbirth leave from week 39 of their pregnancies - in addition to the 4-month maternity leaves already in place once a child is born - and a hotline for women over 45 to provide them with information and guide them through menopause will also be launched.
VAT on menstrual hygiene products not lowered
Yet, the VAT on menstrual hygiene products, such as pads and tampons, will remain at 10%, despite calls from junior partner Unidas Podemos and other entities such as the Catalan government, which wanted it lowered to 4%.
Montero, a senior member of Unidas Podemos, explained that lowering VAT on such items will be discussed ahead of the approval of the 2023 Spanish budget.
Surrogacy considered 'reproductive exploitation'
The legislation approved by Spain's cabinet ministers also bans advertising from surrogacy agencies and companies, since this practice has been illegal in the country since 2006.
When asked by journalists why women have the right to terminate their pregnancy but not to become surrogates, Montero said it was a form of "reproductive exploitation, which is violence against women."
Currently, while it is illegal in Spain, if the birth has taken place in a country where it is legal, those hiring the surrogate's services will be able to take the newborn to Spain and be considered the child's parents.