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HEALTH

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

With news that millions of women across the United States could soon lose their right to an abortion, we look at what the abortion laws are in Spain and find out if women overseas can fly to Spain to have the procedure.

What are Spain's abortion laws for foreign residents and visitors?
Women with slogans written on their bellies reading "Yes to life, but I choose" and "Priests and judges stay away from my body", during a protest against a proposed reform of the country's abortion law in 2012. Spain has recently banned the harassment of women having abortions. Photo: Dani Pozo/AFP

What happens if you find yourself in a difficult situation and need to terminate your pregnancy because of health or psychological reasons or even personal circumstances? Is it possible to get an abortion in Spain?

Abortion has been legal in Spain since 1985.

The initial version of Organic Law 9/1985 law allowed abortion in three cases: in criminology or rape cases within the first 12 weeks, if the pregnancy posed a threat to the physical or mental wellbeing of the pregnant woman (without a limit) or if the fetus could be born with serious physical or psychological defects within the first 22 weeks of gestation.

Then in 2010, the Law on Sexual and Reproductive Health and the Voluntary Interruption of Pregnancy was approved, allowing any woman over the age of 18 to terminate a pregnancy of her own free will during the first 14 weeks of pregnancy.

Foreign visitors

Spanish abortion law also allows foreigners to travel to Spain and have the procedure done here. Of course, foreign patients must also abide by the law set out above – ie. voluntary abortions are not possible after 14 weeks of gestation, but they can take place up until 22 weeks if there is a serious risk to the health of the pregnant woman or if the fetus has serious abnormalities or an incurable disease.  

Be aware, however, that if you are under the age of 18, you will need your parents’ consent if you wish to terminate a pregnancy.

Foreigners who do not reside in Spain cannot get abortions through the Spanish public health system and will have to pay for it privately instead. This is because they are not registered with the health system and do not pay social security to be able to access it.

Abortion clinic

Is it possible for foreigners to get an abortion in Spain? The short answer is yes. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images/AFP

This means that you will have to go to a private clinic or hospital instead. 

There are many private abortion clinics across Spain that are willing to treat foreign visitors, particularly in the country’s big cities, where you’ll be able to find a doctor who can speak to you in English or maybe even your own native language.

According to the latest stats from the Spanish government, there are a total of 207 authorised private abortion clinics in Spain. 

It’s unlikely that your health insurance from your home country will cover for procedures abroad, but it’s best to check with them first. 

If not, you’ll have to pay yourself. Prices for an abortion at a private clinic in Spain start at €300. 

Foreign residents

If you’re a foreign resident in Spain who is legally registered as living here and paying into the social security system, then technically you will be able to receive an abortion for free through the national health service.

However, in reality, this is not always possible as many doctors across Spain refuse to perform abortions, calling themselves “conscientious objectors”.

FOCUS: How women in Spain face barriers despite abortion being legal

So many doctors deny the procedure across the country, that there are 11 provinces in Spain, where no public hospitals have carried out voluntary abortions since the law allowed it in 2010, according to data from the Health Ministry

Furthermore, eight of these provinces have not reported abortions in the past 30 years. 

This means that if you live in Huesca and Teruel in Aragón; Ávila, Palencia, Segovia, Soria or Zamora in Castilla y León; Cuenca, Guadalajara and Toledo in Castilla-La Mancha); and Cáceres in Extremadura, it could be almost impossible for you to get a termination through the public health system.

Across Spain as a whole only 6.20 percent of all abortions, according to the most recent data from the Ministry of Health, were performed in public hospitals. Another 8.12 percent were performed in specialised centres of the public network, while a huge majority (almost 86 percent) were performed in outpatient centres of private clinics.

If you go straight to a private clinic, it’s unlikely that your social security will cover the procedure, however if you go to your public health doctor or gynaecologist first, they may be able to refer you to a private clinic, meaning that social security may be able to cover it. Be aware though, the waiting times will be a lot longer if you do it the second way. 

READ ALSO: Where in Spain is primary healthcare most overburdened?

Last month, Spain announced that it had criminalised the harassment or intimidation of women going for an abortion under new legislation approved by the Senate.

This means anti-abortion activists who try and convince women not to terminate their pregnancies could face up to a year behind bars.

According to the latest Spanish government data, the number of voluntary abortions decreased in 2020 by 10.97 percent compared to the previous year, registering a total of 88,269. 

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HEALTH

What is the average waiting time across Spain to see a doctor?

Find out the average amount of time you'll have to wait to see your GP, a specialist and get a non-urgent surgery in your region of Spain.

What is the average waiting time across Spain to see a doctor?

Where you live in Spain greatly affects the amount of time you’ll have to wait, from the first appointment with your family doctor to seeing a specialist and even through to an operation, if you need one. 

Two and half years after the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, which almost brought the country’s clinics and hospitals to breaking point, how is the situation now?

Here are the average waiting times in each region of the country, with data published by the regional health authorities. 

Andalusia
In Andalusia, the average wait time to see a doctor is four days. To see a specialist such as a dermatologist or a cardiologist, however, you will be waiting three months. Wait times for non-urgent surgeries vary depending on what you need. 

Aragón
Those living in Aragón will typically be able to get a doctor’s appointment within three days, but to see a specialist, it is one of the worst regions in the country, with an average waiting time of four months.

Asturias
The latest waiting times to see a doctor or a specialist in Asturias have not yet been published, but if you need a special test such as an MRI, you will be waiting more than three months.

Balearic Islands
In the Balearics, the average waiting time for an appointment to see your GP is one week, while if you need to see a specialist, you will be waiting around two months. For a non-urgent surgery, you will be on the waiting list for an average of four and a half months. The Balearic Islands are one of the worst places if you need a diagnostic test though with an average wait of more than six months. 

Basque Country
Data from the Basque Country has so far not been made available. 

Canary Islands
Like in Aragón, the Canary Islands is one of the worst places to live if you need to see a specialist with the longest waiting time of more than four months.

Cantabria
Cantabria has so far not updated its data on waiting times to see a specialist, but if you need a non-urgent surgery it has one of the longest waiting times at six months.

Castilla-La-Mancha
Those in Castilla-La-Mancha have one of the shortest wait times to see a GP, being able to book an appointment within just 48 hours. They’ll have to wait longer to see a specialist, however, with an average wait of two months. Those waiting for non-urgent surgery will be waiting another four months.

Castilla y León
In Castilla y León you’ll wait an average of six days before being given an appointment and two months to see a specialist.

Catalonia
Residents of Spain’s northeastern region wait an average of five days in order to get a doctor’s appointment. For diagnostic tests, the wait time depends on what you need. You will be on the list for five months on average for a colonoscopy and two months for an MRI.

If you need to see a specialist again it will completely depend on what type of specialist you need to see. For example, if you need to see a urologist you’ll have to wait five months, but if you need to see a neurologist you’ll be able to get an appointment in less than three months. If your doctor thinks you require non-urgent surgery, you will need to wait another four and half months.

Extremadura
In Extremadura, you’ll have to wait an average of four days for an appointment, while the waiting time to see a specialist will be around two months. Like Cantabria, Extremadura is one of the worst places to live if you need non-urgent surgery, as you’ll be waiting around half a year.

Galicia
Those in Galicia will be able to see a doctor in just three days, however, they have not published recent data on the wait time to see a specialist. They have however published data for non-urgent surgery which is an average wait of three months.

Madrid
Like in Galicia, in Madrid the waiting time for an appointment is just three days, but two months to see a specialist. For a test like an ultrasound or a CT scan, you will be waiting two months. If you need a non-urgent surgery, you’ll be on the waitlist for a further three months.

Murcia
The average wait time to see your GP has not been made available yet, but like in Andalusia, you’ll be waiting more than three months if you need to see a specialist. It’s one of the best regions for wait times for diagnostic tests though as you will be waiting less than one month. 

Navarre
Navarre has one of the shortest wait times for an appointment, available in just 48 hours. If you need to see a specialist, you’ll be waiting a further two months. Those waiting for a non-urgent surgery will have to wait an average of three months.  

La Rioja
Along with Castilla-La Mancha and Navarre, La Rioja has the shortest wait time to get a doctor’s appointment. Here, you’ll be able to see your GP in just 48 hours. This region is also the best to live in if you need to see a specialist or get a specialised test, with a wait of less than one month. If you need non-urgent surgery though it’s not so good, as you’ll be waiting an average of four months.

Valencia
Those living in Valencia have the longest wait out of all the regions for an appointment, where you’ll wait more than a month just to see a GP. When it comes to seeing a specialist you’ll need to wait another three months. And if you need surgery, you will have to wait four and half months on top of that.

The types of non-urgent surgeries the data refers to are hip and knee replacements. For other types of surgeries, it will depend on how urgent it is and what type of surgery it is. At the beginning of the year, there were more than 706,000 people waiting for an operation in Spain, according to data from the Ministry of Health.

You should be aware, however, that official data doesn’t always represent reality. Some readers have told us that currently, they are having to wait a month to see their GP in Catalonia and seven months to see a specialist.

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