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HEALTH

Madrid raises age limit for women to have free IVF up to 45

Madrid will launch a new €4.5-billion fertility plan that will allow women in the region to access IVF treatment through the public health system if they’re under 45 years of age, as authorities in the Spanish capital try to encourage more women to have children.

Madrid raises age limit for women to have free IVF up to 45
Women in Madrid aged under 45 will be able to have four IVF attempts from now on. Photo: Martin BUREAU / AFP

Women in Spain become mothers at a later age than all their European counterparts, EU data shows, with the average Spanish woman having 1.34 children. 

Another study released in March 2021 found that the pandemic had made Spain’s birth rate drop further still to its lowest level in 80 years, and Spain’s National Statistics Institute estimates the country could lose five million inhabitants in the next 50 years, with immigration currently proving to be the best remedy to this population loss.   

With all these stats in mind, Madrid’s regional president Isabel Díaz Ayuso announced on Monday that she would tackle her region’s “demographic challenge” with the “greatest plan to boost the birth rate” yet, as well as measures to address the family-work balance, to be launched on January 26th. 

IVF age limit raised

With an investment of €4.5 billion over the next five years, the standout measure of the 80 to be introduced is that the age limit for women to access free in vitro fertilisation through the public healthcare system in Madrid will go from 40 to 45 years. 

The number of available attempts through public hospitals will be expanded from two to four attempts per woman. 

The legal age limit for IVF to be done privately in Spain is 50 years old.

According to the website eggonationfriends.com, “Spain is the most expensive European IVF destination – due to both very high standards of treatment and the wide availability of donors. The cost of a single own egg IVF cycle ranges from €4,100 to €8,200 while an egg donation cycle may cost from €5,900 to €11,000.”

The Community of Madrid’s new IVF treatment will also now be made available to women who already have another child.  Two new IVF units will be created and Madrid’s first ovocyte egg bank will be set up. 

“Each person will be able choose the centre among the seven currently available, with a single shared waiting list,” Ayuso told journalists on Monday. Waiting times from the first checkup to the actual IVF treatment currently vary from two to four years depending on the Madrid hospital. 

According to stats published by Spain’s Health Ministry and the Spanish Fertility Society (SEF), a total of 180,906 fertility treatments were carried out in Spain in 2019, of which 37,428 babies were born.

READ ALSO: Spain restores free IVF to singles, lesbians and now trans people

Other birth rate-boosting measures

Among the 80 measures which are yet to be fully revealed is the already implemented financial aid scheme in Madrid which grants €500 per month per baby to mothers under 30 with yearly earnings below €30,000.

In addition, there will be an extension of deductions of up to €2,100 in parents’ Personal Income Tax for the birth or adoption of a child over the first three years and a flat rate for self-employed women who return to work after motherhood.

Other measures for new mothers in the Spanish capital include making the work days more flexible, giving them tax incentives for property purchases or rent and priority access to the region’s rental VIVE Plan.

Ayuso has requested “the  involvement of the National Government, which is the one with broad powers, since many of the family and work balance measures require dialogue with the companies”.

Madrid’s regional president will request that Sánchez’s government implement a reduction of at least 50 percent of the employer’s social security quota for workers who join after parental leave and more tax incentives for bosses who give more flexibility to workers with children under the age of 12.

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WOMEN'S RIGHTS

Spanish government divided over proposed menstruation leave bill

Talk of abortion policy reform and proposed menstrual leave has dominated Spanish discourse this week, but it’s also dividing Spain’s coalition government.

Spanish government divided over proposed menstruation leave bill

Spain’s PSOE-fronted coalition government recently outlined proposals that have dominated public discourse in the country.

But the legislation, which would allow women over the age of 16 to get abortions without the permission of their parents and introduce ‘menstruation leave’ for those suffering serious period pains, has not only divided Spanish society but the government itself.

The proposals would make Spain a leader in the Western world, and the first European Union member state to introduce menstrual leave, and changes to abortion law would overturn a 2015 law passed by the conservative People’s Party that forced women aged 16 and 17 to obtain parental consent.

The wide-ranging bill would also end VAT on menstrual products, increase the free distribution of them in schools, and allow between three and five days of leave each month for women who experience particularly painful periods.

READ MORE: What are Spain’s abortion laws for foreign residents and visitors?

Menstrual leave

Ángela Rodríguez, the Secretary of State for Equality, told Spanish newspaper El Periódico in March that “it’s important to be clear about what a painful period is – we’re not talking about slight discomfort, but about serious symptoms such as diarrhoea, fever and bad headaches.”

“When there’s a problem that can’t be solved medically, we think it’s very sensible to have temporary sick leave,” she added.

Cabinet politics

The proposals are slated for approval in cabinet next week, and judging by reports in the Spanish media this week, it is far from reaching a consensus. It is believed the intra-cabinet tensions stem not from the changes to abortion and contraception accessibility, but rather the proposed menstrual leave.

The junior coalition partner in government, Podemos, largely supports the bill, but it is believed some in the PSOE ranks are more sceptical about the symbolism and employment effects of the proposed period pain policy.

Vice President and Minister of Economic Affairs, Nadia Calviño, said this week: “Let me repeat it very clearly: this government believes and is absolutely committed to gender equality and we will never adopt measures that may result in a stigmatisation of women.”

Yet Second Vice President and Minister of Labour, Yolanda Díaz, who is viewed as further to the left than President Pedro Sánchez and other PSOE cabinet ministers, is reportedly “absolutely in favour” of the measure to reform Spain’s “deeply masculinised” labour market.

Sources in the Spanish media have this week also reported that some PSOE cabinet ministers feel the proposed paid leave not only plays up to stereotypes of women, or stigmatises them, like Calviño says, but also places them at a disadvantage in the world of work.

Minister of Inclusion, Social Security and Migration, José Luis Escrivá, stated that while the government should seek to improve women’s employment protections, it should also seek to boost their participation in the labour market under “better conditions.”

In that vein, some feel menstrual leave could be used a form of of employment discrimination similarly to how pregnancy has been historically, and the policy would, in that sense, actually be more regressive than progressive in enshrining women’s workplace rights. 

READ MORE: Spain eyes free contraception for under-25’s

Trade unions

Trade unions are also sceptical of the menstrual leave legislation. Cristina Antoñanzas, deputy secretary of UGT, one of Spain’s largest trade unions, has echoed those in the cabinet who feel the proposals could “stigmatise women.” She added that “it does women a disservice.”

Public opinion

A survey run by INTIMINA found that 67 percent of Spanish women are in favour of regulating menstrual leave, but also that 75 percent fear it is “a double-edged sword” that could generate labor discrimination.

The survey also found that 88 percent of women who suffer from disabling and frequent period pain have gone to work despite it. Seventy-one percent admitted that they have normalised working with pain.

Cabinet showdown

The proposed menstrual leave policy will be debated in cabinet next week when the Council of Ministers debates and approves the broader abortion and contraception reforms. According to sources in the Spanish media, and many cabinet ministers themselves, it seems a consensus on menstruation leave is a long way off.




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