By Chris Graeme
ABORTIONS COULD set the tax payer back 26 million euros annually if made legal in Portugal.
In 2005, some 906 abortions were carried out in public hospitals within the legal parameters set down by the law, which include pregnancy through rape or terminations because the pregnancy carries a high risk of endangering the life of the mother.
Each termination costs the Portuguese National Health Service (SNS) 1,074 euros in cases where the patient is interned and undergoes surgery and 829 euros when the pregnancy is interrupted with medication such as the abortion pill.
Costs can reach 973 euros not including eventual complications or clinical equipment and materials.
If the February 11 referendum on abortion is carried, allowing terminations up to 10 weeks into pregnancy, these figures are likely to shoot through the roof.
Estimates from the Associação para o Planeanmento Familiar, the association for family planning, suggest that the number of legal abortions per year in Portugal could reach between 25,000 and 30,000.
If the cost of abortions have to be supported by the state, it is estimated that National Health Service bill will climb to 20.7 million euros – an estimate made on the 25,000 abortions per year carried out using medication, or 26.8 million for those patients kept in hospital.
The number of voluntary pregnancy terminations has increased year-on-year in Portugal.
In 2005, there were 906 terminations, 72 more than in 2005, (834) and 185 more than in 2003, (721).
One third of legal abortions are carried out through use of the abortion pill (RU-486), which contains the active drug mifepristone developed by the French 20 years ago, which has been on the market in Portugal for just over a year.
According to the Maternity Director of Lisbon’s Alfredo da Costa Hospital (MAC) Jorge Branco, the drug, taken with misoprostol works within 48 hours.
Two thirds of abortions are carried out through surgery through dilation and suction, with each day in hospital costing between 71 and 414 euros according to SNS cost tables.
At the Alfredo da Costa Maternity Hospital, 125 abortions have been carried out since January, of which 43 were done using the abortion pill and 82 using surgery.
Jorge Branco told the daily newspaper Correio da Manhã that the way abortions have been carried out in recent years hasn’t changed much, but said that if the referendum resulted in a ‘yes’ vote it would be difficult to carry out more abortions at the hospital because of a lack of resources, equipment, facilities and staff.
Similarly, the Director of the Gynacological and Obstetrics Department at Lisbon’s Santa Maria Hospital, Lúis Graça (also President of the Order of Doctors) says that Portuguese hospitals in their present form simply do not have the facilities or means to cope with a huge influx of abortions carried out in the public sector.
“Public hospitals are not equipped to carry out terminations, up until now they have been equipped to treat patients. We have neither the facilities, equipment nor staff to do so and certainly we’re not going to cancel an operation on a woman with ovarian cancer and give priority to a woman who is pregnant and wants to have a termination,” he stressed.
However, the same specialist stressed that he was not negating the right of a woman to have an abortion. “A woman should have this right, but the costs should be supported privately in a private clinic, it shouldn’t be the tax payer who has to fork out.”