16 February 2023

Spain approves law making it easier to legally change gender

16 February 2023

The Spanish parliament has approved legislation expanding abortion and transgender rights for teenagers, while making Spain the first country in Europe that will entitle workers to paid menstrual leave.

The driving force behind the laws was equality minister Irene Montero, who is part of Spain’s left-wing coalition government, the United We Can Party.

A package of reforms approved by lawmakers on Thursday strengthened transgender rights, including allowing any citizen aged over 16 to change their legally registered gender without medical supervision.

Minors between 12 and 13-years-old would need a judge’s authorisation to change, while those between 14 and 16 would need to be accompanied by their parents or legal guardians.

Previously, transgender people needed a diagnosis by several doctors of gender dysphoria.

A second law also bans so-called “conversion therapy” for LGBTQ people and provides state support for lesbians and single women seeking IVF treatment.

In a separate package of reforms also approved on Thursday, changes to sexual and reproductive rights mean that 16 and 17-year-olds in Spain can now undergo an abortion without parental consent.

Period products will now be offered free in schools and prisons, while state-run health centres will do the same with hormonal contraceptives and the morning after pill.

The menstrual leave measure allows workers suffering debilitating period pain to take paid time off.

In addition, the changes enshrine in law the right to have an abortion in a state hospital. Currently more than 80% of termination procedures in Spain are carried out in private clinics due to a high number of doctors in the public system who refuse to perform them — with many citing religious reasons.

Under the new system, state hospital doctors would not be forced to carry out abortions, provided they had already registered their objections in writing.

The abortion law builds on legislation passed in 2010 that represented a major shift for a traditionally Catholic country, transforming Spain into one of the most progressive countries in Europe on reproductive rights.

Spain’s constitutional court last week rejected a challenge by the right-wing Popular Party against allowing abortions in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy.

The initiatives have met strong opposition from the right-wing parties that form Spain’s main opposition bloc.

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