Thousands of people march to protest a government plan to restrict abortions in Madrid Feb. 8, 2014.JAVIER BARBANCHO/Reuters /Landov
Thousands of women marched in the streets of Madrid Saturday to protest against the Spanish government's plan to limit access to abortion, which could force many women to travel abroad to obtain the procedure.
Protesters chanted "Freedom of abortion!" and waved signs such as "MPs and rosaries, out of my ovaries", targeting the Catholic Church as the supposed driver of the new restrictions.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's government said in December it would eliminate a 2010 law that allows women to opt for an abortion within the first 14 weeks of pregnancy.
The new legislation would allow abortion only in cases of rape or a threat to the physical or psychological health of the mother.
Protesters say the law would roll back progress made in recent decades, returning to previous restrictions under which women seeking abortions had to travel abroad for the procedure.
"The law means to take us back 40 years," said Concha Merin, 42, who traveled hundreds of miles from the Extremadura region to join the protest in Madrid. "I have two daughters who could be affected. I am thinking of the freedoms of all women in general," she said.
The flag-waving demonstrators, mostly women, represnting a broad range of ages and also including minority political groups, marched past the justice ministry in Madrid. They then gathered at a central square, shouting for the resignation of the man leading the reform, Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon.
The bill has reportedly caused division within the ruling Popular Party and has not yet been sent to parliament, where the conservative Popular Party holds a strong majority. The delay has drawn criticism from anti-abortion campaigners and the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy.
"The Church should not interfere in politics," added protester Merin.