A Spanish anti-abortion association unveiled Tuesday a petition signed by about 1,000 scientists and other intellectuals against government plans to ease legal restrictions against the procedure.
"A society that is indifferent to the killing of 120,000 babies a year is a failed and sick society," reads the petition presented by HazteOir (Make Yourself Heard) at a news conference in Madrid.
Bioethics expert Monica Lopez Barahona, one of the scientists who signed the petition, said an embryo consisting of a single cell was already a form of human life.
"Entering into a debate over timeframes is not acceptable because one does not belong more or less to the human race depending on the number of cells one has, or how many kilos one weighs," she told the news conference.
The petition was unveiled one day after Spain's Catholic Church announced a new anti-abortion campaign that condemns what it said is the better protection offered to threatened species of animals than to the unborn.
It features a poster that shows a baby beside an Iberian lynx cub, a protected species in Spain, on which are the words "Protect the lynx." Above the baby is the caption "And me?". The top of the poster shows pictures of foetuses at various stages of development.
The Socialist government of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, which has clashed with the Church before over the introduction of gay marriage, plans to offer greater legal protection for women who wish to have an abortion and doctors who carry out the procedure.
Jose Blanco, the number two official in the Socialist Party, dismissed the Church's position on the issue as "rancid" while the party's parliamentary spokesman Jose Antonio Alonso said the poster campaign was "extremist".
"Right now the debate is not about yes or no to abortion. Spain had that debate 20 years ago. It is about adapting our legislation to be in line with those European countries we continually say we want to be like," said Health Minister Bernat Soria.
Earlier this month a government-appointed panel of experts recommended that Spain ease its restrictions on abortion and allow the procedure on demand up to 14 weeks into a pregnancy.
Spain decriminalised abortion in 1985 but only for certain cases: up to 12 weeks of pregnancy after a rape; up to 22 weeks in the case of malformation of the foetus; and at any point if the pregnancy represents a threat to the physical or mental health of the woman.
The majority of abortions in Spain take place in private clinics and are justified on the grounds that the pregnancy posed a "psychological risk" for the health of the woman.