Prior to October 1983, abortion (except to save the life of the mother), the sale of contraceptives and access to birth control information, were considered crimes. When the Abortion Act became law in England 1967, Spanish women travelled to Britain for their abortions.

In 1983, the new Socialist government legalized abortion, but after that law was found unconstitutional, exceptions were made for rape, severe foetal abnormality and serious risk to the woman's mental or physical health.

The Socialist Party and their left-wing allies, tried again in 1996 with another bill to allow abortion where women were suffering grave personal or economic problems.

The newly elected conservative Popular Party, however, fought the bill on party lines and it was rejected three times in the Congress of Deputies. The outcome depended on 20 deputies from smaller regional parties.

Spain was divided, the Catholic Church rallying behind the Popular party under the slogan 'Defend Life'. Both pro-and anti-abortion groups put intense pressure on the regional deputies.

In September 1998, the new bill was defeated by one vote. Pro-abortion groups wait for a change of government. Since 1983, most abortions have been carried out in private clinics.