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Spain approved a law this week that would criminalize the harassment or intimidation of women going for an abortion, legislation aimed at deterring anti-abortion activists who attempt to dissuade women from having the procedure, CBS News reported Thursday.
The bill states that anyone trying “to impede (a woman) from exercising her right to voluntarily interrupt pregnancy (through) bothersome, offensive, intimidating or threatening acts” will face prison sentences between three and 12 months, or community service.
The legislation also protects healthcare professionals working in abortions clinics from intimidation and harassment. In practice, it also bans anti-abortion demonstrations outside of these clinics.
The socialist government of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez pushed for the law, which is set to take effect in the coming days.
The move comes amid reports that anti-abortion activists sometimes confront women trying to undergo an abortion: A 2018 study found that 89 percent of Spanish women said they felt harassed when attending an abortion clinic, while 66 percent said they felt threatened.
The predominately Catholic nation decriminalized abortion in 1985 only in cases of rape, if the fetus was malformed or if the birth poses a serious physical or psychological risk to the mother. But in 2010, the law was broadened to allow terminations on demand in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy.
Sanchez’s government is also planning a bill to ensure that all public hospitals offer abortions and also allow 16- and 17-year-olds to terminate their pregnancies without parental consent.
Meanwhile, anti-abortion advocates protested against the “criminalization” of their demonstrations, saying that they will continue “to pray and offer our help to all those women who need it so that they can see that abortion is not the only solution.”