Equality Minister Irene Montero has taken measures to expand LGBTQ rights, combat domestic violence and make consent the determining factor in sexual assault cases. (Credit: La Moncloa – Gobierno de España, Flickr)

Spain is showing the world how to lead with women in mind.

Members of the Spanish parliament recently passed laws that will provide paid menstrual leave for workers, as well as expand abortion access and protect transgender rights for teenagers. 

The charge was led by Equality Minister Irene Montero, who belongs to the left wing’s “United We Can” party. Since becoming minister in 2020, she has taken measures to extend rights to LGBTQ citizens, combat domestic violence and make consent the determining factor in cases of sexual assault.

This new legislation guarantees citizens the right to receive abortions in a state hospital. According to NPR, more than 80% of abortions in Spain are performed in private clinics due to the number of doctors in the public system who refuse to do them, often citing religious reasons. This reform, however, will not force state hospital doctors to carry out abortions.

The abortion law — which builds on 2010 legislation that legalized abortions in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy — is expected to further transform the traditionally Catholic country into one of the most progressive ones in Europe, in terms of reproductive rights. Additionally, 16- and 17-year-olds in Spain no longer need parental consent to undergo an abortion. State-run health centers will provide hormonal contraceptives and the morning-after pill for free, to increase accessibility. 

In addition to that recently passed bill, a new menstrual leave measure will allow workers suffering from period pain to take paid time off. They will be allowed three days of paid menstrual leave per month, with the option of extending it to five days. Schools and prisons will also be tasked with providing period products for free. 

The final law will expand transgender rights to be more inclusive of minors.  With this new law enacted, any citizen over 16 years of age may legally change their registered gender without medical supervision — though 14- and 15-year-olds must be accompanied by their legal guardians, and 12- and 13-year-olds will require a judge’s authorization to change.

The passage of these measures wasn’t entirely smooth sailing — all three have been met with strong opposition from Spain’s right-wing parties. 

Of that pushback, Montero said Spain ultimately must make one decision as a government: “Are we going to dare to be part of the democratizing impulse that comes from the feminist movement and from civil society,” she asked n a January interview with Time, “or are we going to maintain a more cowardly or conservative attItude?”