By John Jalsevac

LISBON, Portugal, July 31, 2007 ( – Portugal’s first private abortion center has opened up in Lisbon, reports the Los Angeles Times today. Located just off the Avenida da Liberdade, the brand-new abortion mill, called Dos Arcos, reportedly has a large staff of 22 gynecologists, technicians and administrators. According to the LA Times, 30 women came to Dos Arcos on its first day of operation.

“We are the first clinic,” said owner Yolanda Hernandez, who has been in the business of providing abortions in Spain for thirty years, often catering to Portuguese women who crossed the border in order to end the lives of their unborn children. “After us,” she prophesied, “many more will come.”

There is likely some truth to Hernandez’s prediction. After the coming into effect of Portugal’s abortion law, reports came out of the predominantly Catholic country that upwards of 80% of doctors are unwilling to perform abortions. With doctors in the public hospitals being unwilling to do abortions, it is likely that there will be an increasing demand for private sector abortion providers, many of them, perhaps, like Hernandez, following the money trail from foreign countries where abortion has long been legal.

Gynecologist Miguel de Oliveira e Silva, the author of several books dealing with abortion, pointed out to IPS news agency earlier this month that “Neither the referendum nor the law were able to change doctors’ attitudes. That’s why the Heath Ministry recently initiated negotiations to ‘privatise abortion.’”

Another Portugese Gynecologist, Joao Malta, explained to The Times why he would not perform abortions. “I do not kill my patients,” he stated bluntly. “If I see an embryo that’s 2 1/2 milimeters, I can see a heart beating, and, for me, that’s a human being.”

So far Hernandez has signed contracts with three Portuguese hospitals, at which all of the doctors refused to perform abortions out of “conscientious objection,” a provision that was allowed for by the new law. Current arrangements in the country, however, dictate that hospitals with no doctors to perform abortions must ensure the availability of abortion by contracting with private doctors or clinics.

According to The Kaiser Foundation, at present at least 9 out of 50 public hospitals have said that they cannot guarantee that they can provide abortions due to the lack of availability of doctors willing to perform the procedure.

Hernadez, however, pointed out to the LA Times that she does not expect an overwhelming number of Portuguese women to come to her new clinic for abortions, at least not right away. In time, she indicated, the new law and the presence of clinics such as hers will normalize abortion, making it acceptable. “With so many years of clandestinity, the fear has its impact,” said Hernandez.

Nevertheless, while Hernandez admits that business at her mill in the heart of Portugal is slow-going, according to the Times upwards of 10,000 Portuguese women were crossing the border annually to Spain to obtain abortions at Hernandez’s Spanish abortion mills prior to the change in Portugal’s abortion law. In addition the Times’ piece states that “health officials estimate that 23,000 women a year have obtained illegal abortions,” over half of whom have had to be hospitalized for “botched abortions.”

It is unclear if these thousands of women are still choosing to cross the border to abort their children rather than do so in their own countries, where the procedure is now legal and publicly funded. The other possibility is that Hernandez and the LA Times have followed standard pro-abortion strategy and significantly exaggerated the number of women obtaining abortions illegally or in foreign countries.

See previous coverage:

Portugal Abortion Bill Approved by Legislative Committee

Portugal Legalizes Abortion as President Silva Approves Legislation

Portugal Offers Free Abortions for Women Followed by Mandatory Education on Contraception


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