Spain's ruling People's Party has sought to quell dissent within its ranks over a proposed law which would make it harder to get an abortion, and defies a regional trend of easing restrictions.

The party said on Wednesday it would seek consensus over the planned legislation that was presented by the centre-right government last month and only allows abortion in the case of rape or if the pregnancy posed a serious physical or mental health risk to the mother.

The new rules, which prompted protests across the country, would make Spain one of the most restrictive European countries on terminations. Ireland legalised abortion under limited circumstances this year.

The draft law eliminates the option of abortion on request in the case of malformation of the foetus.

It alters a law that had allowed the procedure on request up to the 14th week of pregnancy.

The People's Party has faced increasing criticism from some high-ranking members, who say women ought to have the right to choose.

Celia Villalobos, parliament's deputy speaker, appealed on Wednesday to People's Party legislators to be allowed to vote freely on the bill rather than according to the party line.

"I have no doubt that everything will be done so that the future law gains the maximum consensus," Maria Dolores de Cospedal, party secretary-general, said after a meeting of People's Party leaders in Madrid.

The PP has a majority in parliament, meaning it should still be able to pass the law as it winds its way through Congress and the Senate, unless there is a major rebellion, and there has so far been no suggestion the draft will be watered down.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies