Getting into debt to go to the USA for an abortion: the obstacles to terminate a pregnancy in Spain

About 22,000 euros was what it cost them to Paula and Alberto, a young couple from the Basque Country, to go to the United States and have an abortion there. To do so, they had to ask for a bank loan. It happened last June and, as of today and for the next five years, continue to pay the loan to the bank. All because a late diagnosis made abortion impossible in Spain. “A la week 28 of pregnancy, I had a ultrasound and they saw something strange in the head. The gravity would not be known until the baby was born: it could have From blindness to paralysis.” they relate on the other end of the phone. The fetus had absence of the septum pellucidum, which is the septum separating the two cerebral hemispheres. Neither Paula’s nor Alberto’s are real names: they wish to tell their story. from anonymity, just like other women interviewed by EL PERIÓDICO who had to, like Paula, leave for the abroad to abort while being Pregnant more than 22 weeks.

The Spain’s abortion law, one of the most progressive in the world, allows the interruption free of pregnancy until week 14. From then until the 22nd week, the woman, in order to have an abortion, needs a medical report certifying that there is a serious risk to the life or health of the pregnant woman, or anomalies incompatible with life.

However, although infrequent, some anomalies or malformations go undetected. until the third trimester. From the 22nd week, the woman must go through the clinical committee of a hospital, which will or will not give the green light to abortion. And it will only do so if there is a malformation of the fetus incompatible with life. This word, “incompatible,” is the key, for, if the malformation is serious but compatible with life, the woman will not obtain permission to have an abortion. Experts warn of how confusing the term “compatible with life” is, given that, at present, virtually all malformations, even those considered to be “very serious”, are.

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The recent reform of this law, which has conferred upon it even more reformist in nature (mainly because minors under the age of 16 can terminate a pregnancy without parental consent), it still does not protect those women who want to have an abortion beyond 22 weeks. Although they represent a small percentage, in Spain there are those who must go abroad for it: Belgium (where about 100 Spanish women have abortions each year, according to the Brussels University Hospital Center), France, England or the United States are some of the destinations. The total number of Spanish women who have abortions outside the country is not known, because only those who have abortions outside the country are counted. accepted abortions as of 22 weeks, not those rejected.

No options in Spain

To Paula and Alberto, from 33 and 34 years old and with one daughter, they received the diagnosis of the fetus at 28 weeks. there were no options for abortion in Spain because the anomaly was not incompatible with life. I had a 75% chance of having some problem. and a 25% chance of not. For us, that 75% was enough to want an abortion; for the doctors, it wasn’t,” says Alberto. The couple began to search for internet and gave with the Associació de Drets Sexuals i Reproductius de Barcelona.

The organization put them in contact with hospitals in Brussels and France. Traveling there would have been much cheaper, since it was enough for them with the European Health Insurance Card and it would have cost them only about 150 euros. But the paperwork kept getting delayed. “I had the aggravating circumstance that my daughter’s delivery had been brought forward by a month and now there was also risk that it would be brought forward.” Paula recounts. That is how they decided to look at options in the United States and found the clinic Southwestern Women’s Options, in Albuquerque.

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“From the beginning they told us they would do it and made it very clear how much it was going to cost: $18,000. But they got us two financial aid thanks to women’s associations there and went down to 16.800 [unos 17.000 euros]”, Alberto recounts. In addition to the flights and the stay, the couple also left between 20,000 and 22,000 euros. On a Monday in June they flew to Albuquerque and on a Saturday they returned to Spain. “We had to ask for a loan from the bank because we didn’t have the money for this,” says Paula.

Psychological help

As happens to all women who miscarry so far along in their pregnancies, hers was a wanted baby. Paula and Alberto decided to abort in the face of the uncertainty of not knowing what kind of life awaited their future child. They have needed, and still need it, psychological help. “I felt totally abandoned. I was made to feel guilty, as if I was Having an abortion on a whim.” Paula laments. “We had abortions because we wanted to make sure that our child would have a dignified life. -Alberto continues. [El Estado] does not take these cases into account”.

Their state of mind, they both assure, “goes by the day.” “And the economic issue doesn’t help because it continues to affect our life. We are not a particularly well-off family and it was a lot of money. The stress, the anxiety and the sleepless nights are still there,” says Paula.

Both say that are unrepentant Of the decision made, but they don’t want it to be known who they are. “It’s such a hard thing, we don’t want to add to the pain. We have no regrets, we know that done the best thing for our son. But we don’t want to be judged.” they conclude.

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