On February 9, the Constitutional Court of Spain ruled in favor of the 2010 bill regarding abortion rights after a 13-year battle. Now, the law allows abortion up to 14 weeks of pregnancy and up to 22 weeks in cases of life-threatening pregnancy or fetal malformation. However, the victory set the stage for two packages on reproductive health and trans rights. Spain’s Minister of Equality, Irene Montero, championed the vote as a “historic day for feminist progress”.
Through the first package, parliament broadened the right to abortion: allowing 16 to 17-year-olds to have the procedure without parental approval. The law couples with a new regulation that requires public medical facilities to perform abortions. Whereas in past years, doctors rejected more than 20% of women on religious grounds. While not requiring doctors to perform the procedure, the regulation mandates a written justification for their objection.
The bill bans conversion therapy and provides state support for victims of the practice, making strides in LGBTQ+ rights. Moreover, following Denmark’s lead in 2014, Spanish citizens over 16 can now easily change their gender identity on their national ID cards. Leading up to the vote, LGBTQ+ activists like Njurka Gibaja, a trans woman, praised the proposed law. Gibaja said, “if we aren’t officially recognized by the government, then we don’t exist.” Previous legislature built barriers around the process. Only adults could register for the change, had to provide medical reports verifying their gender dysphoria, and proof that they had undergone two years of hormonal treatment.
Lastly, women can now submit doctor’s notes approving temporary medical incapacitation due to severe menstrual pain. Montero touted the law, and announced: “Working in pain is over. Taking pills before work and trying to hide that we are suffering incapacitating pain is over.” With this, Spain becomes the first nation in Europe to recognize the need for such measures.
Nevertheless, the adopted laws have faced political backlash from The Popular Party and the UGT, one of Spain’s largest trade unions. They argue that the law will stigmatize women in the workplace, create job market disadvantages, and negatively impact work environments. However, A yearly government fund of up to €23.8 million will support paid menstrual leave, and will not burden employers with extra expenses.
Zomato, an Indian food delivery company, has proven that menstrual leave does not encourage sexist stereotypes as some argue. Zomato implemented a 10-day menstrual leave policy in 2020, and has noticed an increase of productivity at work ever since. The policy applies to all genders who menstruate, including transgender people. They use an “honor system”: employees simply post an emoji of red droplets on their work calendar. The policy promotes transparency in the workplace, has boasted employee retention, and has attracted more women to the workforce. Vaidika Parashar, head of communications for the company, affirmed, “companies have to enable women to perform their work and at the same time, their role in the society – and also as a human-being, as a woman and a mother.”
Spain’s reproductive health package also mandates schools and prisons to provide free menstrual products, aiming to destigmatize menstruation. Likewise, state-run health centers will make hormonal contraceptives and the-morning-after-pill available to the public.
Since Montero’s appointment in 2020, the Ministry of Equality has spearheaded feminist policy throughout the country. She has advocated for legislation that extends necessary rights to the LGBTQ+ community and protects reproductive health.
The new laws will undoubtedly go through a transitional period of acceptance in Spain’s majority Catholic society. However, as Montero maintains, “the point is that we are talking about human rights. And human rights do not have to be weighed on the scales of political convenience. They are either defended or not defended.”