Spain considers paid time off for severe period symptoms

A draft law would allow women to stay home if they are diagnosed by a doctor. It would also extend abortion access, but it faces an arduous path through Parliament.

Women walk towards an office building in Madrid, Spain, Tuesday, May 17, 2022. The Spanish government approved a draft bill that widens abortion rights for teenagers and may make Spain the first country in Europe entitling workers to paid menstrual leave. The Spanish move comes just as the U.S. Supreme Court appears poised to reverse the country's constitutional right to abortion, in place for nearly a half-century. AP Photo/Paul White

MADRID — The Spanish government Tuesday approved a draft law that would make Spain the first European country to grant women days off work because of menstrual pain, as well as extend access to abortion.

Under the new law, women would have the right to time off if a doctor diagnoses them with severe menstrual pain. The cost would be covered by the state. Among other measures to help women during their menstruation, Spain’s left-wing government also decided that schools should provide sanitary pads to students who request them.

The regulatory changes to assist women during menstruation are part of a broader legal overhaul that the Socialist-led government wants parliament to approve with the goal of consolidating women’s right to abortion. The draft law extends access to abortion for minors, allowing the procedure from the age of 16 without the consent of a parent or guardian. It would also remove a previous rule that forced a woman to confirm her choice three days after initially asking for an abortion.


Spain’s minister of equality, Irene Montero, defended the draft law as necessary to enhance women’s health rights.

“This is a law that shows what Spain is and what is the feminist movement in Spain,” Montero said. “We will be the first country of Europe that talks about menstruation health as a health standard and we eliminate this stigma, shame and guilt, as well as this loneliness that women often have go through during their period.”

The draft law puts the spotlight on dysmenorrhea, the severe pain that women can suffer during menstruation and that can leave them too debilitated to work. But the medical profession in Spain has been divided over whether treating menstruation problems required a specific law.

Faride Ojeda, a gynecologist in a private hospital in Madrid, said that the only positive aspect of the government’s menstruation law was that it would guarantee women’s pay while on work leave, but “as a feminist as well as gynecologist, I don’t want a law that presents the period as an illness and might even convince more men not to employ more women and hence reduce further our opportunities in the workplace.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.



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