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Health minister rules out  changes to abortion law

Minister of Health Paulo Macedo has ruled out the possibility of changing the law on the Voluntary Termination of Pregnancies.

Speaking at the American Club, the minister, who has come under fire for running the health service like a minister of finances, said he recognised the “significant costs” on the Portuguese National Health Service (SNS) from abortions.

However, he said it had been a decision taken by the Portuguese in a referendum and one that had to be respected.

The minister was speaking on the theme of The Future of the Portuguese Health System in which he said that the Portuguese would have to make a higher contribution towards paying for treatment in order for it to survive.

“The referendum was a clear ‘yes’ on decriminalising abortion. The State has promoted abortion by paying for Voluntary Termination of Pregnancies,” he said.

But a lawyer at the lunch complained that the tax payer was bearing the brunt of an extra €100 million in expenses from abortions, and that the change in the law had contributed towards a fall in the birth rate and asked if he intended to change the law.

“I’m not in favour of successive referendums. There was a significant cost but that’s what Portugal decided,” the minister replied.

During his presentation on the future of the health service, Paulo Macedo said that he intended to reduce the number of top managers and departments, come down heavily against fraud, and cut out the doubling up of services – giving the example of the existence of 16 maternity hospitals in Lisbon alone.

The minister said he would also slash expenses on settlements and the amount of overtime.

At the same time, he said he would increase the number of general practitioners, continuous care and generic label medicines.

Paulo Macedo also admitted there would be higher moderate charges for hospital patients but the number of people given charge exemptions would also be widened to protect the most vulnerable in society.

The Government would also rationalise costs and carry out more keyhole surgery rather than having patients occupying hospital beds.  

Chris Graeme