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HEALTH

Spain’s Castilla y León to introduce measures to prevent abortions

The regional government of Castilla y León wants to implement a set of pro-life measures to help prevent abortions, such as offering a 4D ultrasounds.

Spain’s Castilla y León to introduce measures to prevent abortions
Vice president of Castilla y Leon Juan Garcia Gallardo who wants to introduce anti abortion measures. Photo: CESAR MANSO / AFP

Women in Castilla y León who may be considering an abortion will be offered a fourth ultrasound in the first trimester of pregnancy so that parents can listen to the baby’s heartbeat and a 4D ultrasound in a bid to prevent them from making that decision. 

The vice president of the regional government, Juan García-Gallardo, explained the new measures at a press conference on Thursday. 

He also gave thanks to the Minister of Health, Alejandro Vázquez, with whom the government has been negotiating on this matter, and added that he is “very willing”.

The “fetal heartbeat protocol”, will be offered to women who are between six and nine weeks pregnant he explained, with the intention of allowing the parents to emotionally bond with their baby. 

García-Gallardo stressed, however, that women would “not be forced to listen to their baby’s heartbeat if they don’t want to”. 

Currently, pregnant women are offered three ultrasounds in pregnancy which are typically given at weeks 12, 20 and 33 of gestation.

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

Women who require it will also be offered an additional 4D ultrasound, which according to the documentation from the regional government is to promote the “emotional involvement” of the family by observing “an image of the baby with its facial features and gestures, hands, fingers, feet and the rest of the body”.  

However, at this stage in pregnancy when all these facial features can be seen, it would already be too late for a legal abortion, which women in Spain can request up until 14 weeks. 

García-Gallardo said that a “preferential” procedure will be given to women who are considering terminating their pregnancies, as well as “specific psychosocial care”, a measure that is already provided for in Spain’s so-called Abortion Law, which establishes the need to offer psychological care and a period of reflection of at least three days.

The regional government will also defend the right of doctors to exercise conscientious objection to avoid performing abortions, which is widespread in Castilla y León, where they are only regularly performed at the Hospital de Miranda de Ebro. We will not “black list” doctors who refuse to perform abortions García-Gallardo confirmed. 

The measures are still in the proposal phase and will have to be approved by order of the Ministry of Health before they become a reality. 

According to the latest data available from 2021, the number of voluntary abortions grew by 7.2 percent in Castilla y León compared to the previous year, with 2,597, below the 2,674 recorded in 2019, before the pandemic. 

Only 217 were made in hospitals, with only 59 in public centres or 2.2 percent.

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HEALTH

Shortage of medicines in Spanish pharmacies grows by 150 percent

Spanish pharmacies are increasingly struggling to get the proper supply of certain medicines such as paediatric amoxicillin and some anti-diabetic drugs.

Shortage of medicines in Spanish pharmacies grows by 150 percent

In 2022 Spanish pharmacies experienced supply problems with 403 medicines, according to Spain’s General Council of Pharmaceutical Colleges (CGCOF).

Though this figure represents just 5 percent of the total 20,000 medicines sold in Spain, it is an increase of 150 percent compared to 2021 and represents what experts have deemed a “worrying” trend that is rising after two years of decline. The shortages last an average of four or five weeks.

This was the warning made by the CGCOF based on its data on the supply of medicines (CisMED), which is focused on ‘supply alert’ notices provided by almost 10,000 of the 22,000 pharmacies across Spain.

READ ALSO – Reader question: Are there limits on bringing medicines into Spain?

On average in 2022, more than 70 medicines were identified as suffering from shortages per week. The weekly average for 2021 was 28 incidents and in 2020 it was 41.

Of these shortages, experts say they are especially pronounced in medicines for the nervous system and cardiovascular groups, and “very significantly” pronounced with paediatric amoxicillin and some anti-diabetic drugs.

Medicines for the nervous system made up around 20 percent of the incidents, followed by cardiovascular therapeutics, with 19 percent, digestive 14 percent, and respiratory 13 percent.

READ ALSO: Pharmacies in Spain will be able to sell medical marijuana by the end of 2022

Call for calm

Stark as this statistic may seem out of context, however, it does not suggest that shelves in Spanish pharmacies are bare nor that Spaniards are being turned away by out-of-stock pharmacists.

Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, President of the CGCOF, Jesús Aguilar, soothed fears by drawing distinctions between different types of shortages, one, he said, was “when there is none for anyone,” and the other a lack of supply “when there is none today but there will be tomorrow, or when there is none here but there is there”. 

Spain, he said, was suffering the second, adding that pharmacists can always replace or find alternative medicines. “Citizens have to be calm. It’s under control. We have the problem when it comes to looking for the medicine, not the citizens,” he added.

Causes

The causes of the shortages of certain medicines in Spain are various, but many stem from a combination of the centralised nature of production, meaning some medicines are produced only in certain parts of the world or even single factories, and a shortage of raw materials and packaging from Asian countries where production has been slow to recover from the pandemic shutdown, as well as the low price of medicines in Spain.

The issue is “a multifactorial problem that comes from problems with the increasingly globalised nature of drug manufacturing,” Aguilar said. “This supply problem has been affecting Spain for years, as well as the rest of Europe and the world.”

Farmahelp

To try and ease the supply shortages, the CGCOF has launched a new campaign to expand ‘Farmahelp’, a collaborative network of pharmacies that already has almost 6000 participating branches.

The Farmahelp app allows patients to find medicines in nearby pharmacies when they are unavailable and connects the pharmacy branches so they can update one another about the availability of medicines.

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