Spanish women's groups have been outraged by government plans to tighten abortion laws. The proposed changes will make it harder for women to abort deformed fetuses.
Some one hundred protesters, mostly women, rallied in Madrid's central Tirso de Molina square on Sunday to denounce the planned reforms.
The demonstrators argued that the changes, which would ban abortion in cases where a fetus is deformed, would take Spain back to the era of the dictatorship of General Franco.
The conservative government announced on Friday that it would alter an abortion law introduced by its Socialist predecessors in 2010 that granted women the right to abortion on demand for up to 14 weeks of pregnancy.
The 2010 law also allows abortion up to the 22nd week of pregnacy if there is a risk to the mother's health or the fetus is seriously deformed.
In a recent interview, however, Spanish Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz Gallardon said the present law should be changed to ban abortion in cases of deformity.
"I don't understand why we should deprive a fetus of life by allowing abortion for the simple reason that it suffers a handicap or a deformity," he told the conservative daily La Razon on July 22.
He said he will also ask parliament to change the existing law by making parental permission mandatory if 16- and 17-year-olds are seeking abortions. Currently, abortions are allowed for this age group without parental consent.
Justa Montero, a member of the Feminist Assembly, one of the groups behind Sunday's Madrid protest, said the measures would take away women's rights, and criticized Gallardon for proposing the changes.
"The minister's proposal is totally cynical," Montero said.
"He demonstrates a concern that then is not followed up with other measures. He makes this statement at the same time as the government is cutting funding to services for disabled people and children with deformities," she continued.
A poll published on Sunday in the left-wing newspaper El Pais showed that the vast majority of Spaniards, 81 percent, oppose banning abortion in cases of fetal deformity.
The Popular Party, of which Gallardon is a member, won a landslide victory in November and has vowed to make good its campaign pledge to tighten abortion laws.
tj/ng (AP, AFPE)