Madrid — A Spanish bishop urged medical personnel to stop performing abortions, as new church-backed legal restrictions passed their first parliamentary hurdle.
"Those who assist with abortions are seen as automatically excommunicated because the church wants to defend the weak," said Madrid Auxiliary Bishop Juan Martinez Camino.
"A woman who has been raped should not abort, since one injustice doesn't justify another. Eliminating the child, an innocent human being, is not a good solution," he told Spain's La Vanguardia daily Wednesday, a day after an opposition Socialist Workers Party challenge to the legislation was defeated.
The opposition vowed to block the bill, which will restrict abortion rights to cases of rape and severe risk to a woman's physical or mental health.
"If this goes ahead, the number of abortions in Spain will still rise, and many will be more dangerous for women," Elena Valenciano, a party leader, told parliament Tuesday. "Inequality will grow and Spanish women will again be divided into two groups: those who can travel to a neighboring country for a safe abortion, and those who can't."
In 2010, abortion on demand up to 14 weeks was legalized. Abortions also are allowed up to 22 weeks in cases of health risks or fetal deformities.
The new legislation was introduced in December, but opinion polls suggest the bill is opposed by most of Spain's 47 million citizens, approximately 80 percent of whom are traditionally Catholics, although only one in five attends Mass, according to 2011 data.
In a Jan. 30 statement, the bishops' conference welcomed the bill as a "positive improvement on existing legislation, which views abortion as a right," and thanked "the dedication of many people, both ecclesial and civil," who had "worked tirelessly" to help pregnant women.
"The Catholic Church's position is well-known and shared with many men and women of good will from other faiths and nonbelievers -- that defending the right to life of every innocent human being is the common heritage of human reason," the statement added.
"Any law on abortion, however restrictive, is still be an unjust law. Nobody has the right, under any circumstances, to take the life of an innocent human being."
On Feb. 3, the bishops' conference president, Cardinal Antonio Rouco Varela of Madrid, was accosted at the capital's St. Justo Church by topless protesters from an international feminist group, who chanted "abortion is sacred" and threw underwear at him.
La Vanguardia reported that a Mass at St. Miguel Church in Parma, Mallorca, was similarly disrupted Feb. 9 by pro-abortion protesters.