World Digest: Spanish lawmakers move to ease abortion restrictions

Friday, December 18, 2009


Abortion restrictions likely to be eased

Lawmakers voted to ease Spain's abortion law Thursday, approving a bill to allow the procedure without restrictions up to 14 weeks of gestation. The change would bring this traditionally Roman Catholic country in line with its more secular counterparts in Northern Europe.

The vote in the 350-seat Congress of Deputies was 184 to 158, with one abstention. The measure now goes to the Senate, where passage is expected early next year.

Abortion was the last major pending issue in a bold agenda undertaken by Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, a Socialist who took power in 2004. Under Zapatero, Spain has legalized gay marriage and made it easier for Spaniards to divorce, moves that have infuriated conservatives and the Catholic Church.

-- Associated Press


Millions face hunger as rainy season fails

Millions of people in drought-stricken East Africa face hunger and poverty after seasonal rains failed again, withering crops, killing livestock and drying up ponds and streams, an aid group said Thursday.

Oxfam said some areas had received less than 5 percent of normal rainfall for November. In war-ravaged Somalia, this is the sixth failed rainy season and the worst drought in 20 years. The failed state is already being torn apart by a brutal civil war, which has left nearly half its population reliant on aid.

-- Associated Press


Khodorkovsky ally wins arrest review

The chief justice of Russia's Supreme Court has ordered a review of the 2003 arrest of Mikhail Khodorkovsky's business partner Platon Lebedev, a court spokesman said Thursday.

The review was in response to a ruling two years ago in the European Court of Human Rights that found Lebedev's rights had been violated during his arrest and pretrial detention, Russian Supreme Court spokesman Pavel Odintsov said.

Khodorkovsky, an oil tycoon and once Russia's richest man, also was arrested in 2003. Both men are serving eight-year prison sentences after being convicted of fraud and tax evasion in a politically charged trial. They are now on trial on new but related charges.

-- Associated Press

Portugal proposes legalizing gay marriage: The Socialist government has drawn up a plan that would make Portugal the sixth European country to allow gay marriage. The bill is almost certain to pass, as the center-left government has the support of all left-of-center parties.

-- From news services

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