June 1, 2009 / 4:43 PM / 11 years ago

Spaniards against free abortion for 16-yr-olds - poll

By Raquel Castillo

MADRID, June 1 (Reuters) - Most Spaniards, including those who normally vote for the ruling Socialists, are against a government proposal to let 16-year-old women have an abortion without their parents’ permission, polls showed on Monday.

A total of 64 percent of those surveyed by Metroscopia for the left-leaning newspaper El Pais said they did not agree with the Socialist government’s plan, part of a wider move to legalise terminations in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy.

The surveys could make concerning reading for the Socialist government ahead of European elections on Sunday, for which polls already suggest the opposition conservatives have a lead.

With the economy set to sink by more than 3 percent this year and unemployment passing 17 percent, Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has concentrated his European campaign on his liberalising social agenda, including abortion.

But legal abortion for women as young as 16 seems to be a step too far in the minds of voters, with 56 percent of Socialist supporters found in the Metroscopia poll to be against it, compared to only 40 percent in favour.

Spanish law currently only allows abortions in cases of rape, if a foetus is damaged or if the pregnancy could endanger the physical or mental health of the mother.

Fifty-seven percent of Spaniards surveyed for conservative newspaper ABC rejected the freedom to choose for 16 to 18-year-olds, as did 71 percent in a poll commissioned for Catalan newspaper La Vanguardia.

The abortion reform has become a controversial issue in Catholic Spain and has not just been criticised by those on the right.

Equality Minister Bibiana Aido has defended the proposals, pointing out that 16-year-olds can currently choose to have other operations such as open heart surgery or breast enlargements without seeking their parents’ permission.

However, even members of her own party have said while they agree with the overall reform, they think parental permission should be required for under 18s. (Reporting by Sarah Morris; Editing by Jon Hemming)

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