Spanish clinics refuse abortions over unpaid bills

16th September 2011, Comments 0 comments

Seven clinics in central Spain on Friday refused to offer any more free, state-funded abortions until the regional government Castile-La Mancha pays its bills.

The region was supposed to pay the private clinics after each operation but now had a debt of more than a million euros ($1.4 million), said a spokeswoman for the clinics, Luisa Torres.

"These are small clinics that cannot take these unpaid bills," Torres said.

The clinics, which usually perform 300 abortions a month, will no longer accept patients referred by Social Security and will advise patients to take any complaints to the regional authority, Torres said.

"The other alternative would be for patients to pay the fee and then ask for a refund from the regional government," she said, estimating the cost of an abortion at 400 euros.

Clinics will make an exception for minors and women without any money, the spokeswoman said.

Torres said she understood that the step could create "social alarm" but argued that in not paying its debts the regional government was not respecting the law.

A July 2010 law allowed voluntary abortions up to 14 weeks of pregnancy. Perviously, Spanish law banned abortions except in cases of rape, malformation or a risk to the mother.

Castile-La Mancha already owes 113 million euros to pharmacies that it should have paid them to cover the state-funded portion of medicines prescribed to patients.

Affected pharmacies had to threaten to shut up shop in order to get their money.

Castile-La Mancha had a deficit equal to 4.9 percent of economic output, a debt of 7.5 billion euros and unpaid bills of 2.6 billion euros at the end of June, according to the region's new conservative Popular Party president, Maria Dolores de Cospedal, who has announced a 20-percent budget cut in 2012.

© 2011 AFP

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