Spain's conservative government on Friday moved to restrict a law that had previously allowed abortion on request within a 14-week term.
Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon said the change was needed to ensure better protection for both women and unborn children.
"We can't allow the life of the unborn baby to depend exclusively on the decision of the mother," said Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon, while adding: "What the government understands is that in the dramatic circumstances of an abortion the woman is not guilty. The woman is always the victim."
The draft law envisages abortion only in the case of a woman having been raped, or when to carry the baby to full term might pose a serious risk to the mother's mental or physical health.
The legislation makes it no longer possible to request abortion in the case of a malformation of the fetus. With Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and his ruling People's Party enjoying an absolute majority in parliament, the law is expected to pass with ease.
However, pro-abortionists and abortion clinics voiced concern about the legal change, claiming it was a retrograde step.
"This is the worst possible option we had considered," said the head of abortion clinic association ACAI Francisca Garcia. "It places Spain among the most restrictive countries (in Europe)."
Far end of spectrum
The overwhelming majority of European countries offer abortion on request, according to the World Health Organization. Termination when the fetus is thought to be impaired, or in cases of rape or incest, is allowed in 88 percent of cases.
In Malta and Andorra, abortion is illegal on any grounds. It is also severely limited in Poland.
The head of Spain's Catholic Church, Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, said in April that the 2010 law - introduced by the then-Socialist government - had "led to a rise in the number of abortions to terrifying levels."
While the ruling People's Party has been unable to carry out conservative economic policies such as lowering taxes, given budget targets imposed by Brussels, it has recently implemented other socially conservative policies.
These have included ramping up the penalties for unauthorized street protests and increasing powers of private security guards, permitting them to make arrests.
rc/lw (AFP, AP, Reuters)