In Portugal, a proposal within the health ministry to potentially penalize the salaries of family doctors if their female patients contracted a sexually transmitted disease or had an abortion was quickly retracted, though not after a flurry of public outcry.
The proposal came to national attention on Monday, May 9th, when the Portuguese newspaper Público published an exclusive article revealing that a group of experts, consulted by the health ministry, considered the measure for inclusion in the evaluation criteria of family doctors. According to the government, the measure was meant to incentivize doctors to provide “family planning” services to their patients.
Women’s rights groups and doctors’ associations quickly responded that the proposed rule was discriminatory and could incentivize doctors to dissuade their patients from having abortions.
The revelation of the proposal coincided with the presentation and debate on the national health budget in parliament on Tuesday, May 10th.
Health Minister Marta Temido defended the proposal as a tool for monitoring women’s health and medical care. She also stated that her department had no intention of questioning or inhibiting the right to an abortion. Abortion on demand up to the 10th week of pregnancy has been legal in Portugal since 2008.
“What we had recently was an evaluation of these specific activities by a technical group, not by a group from the Ministry of Health, which recommended that the subject of the criterion for carrying out an abortion be considered as a lack of monitoring of family planning by professionals,” said Marta fearfully. “I think everyone understands that the circumstance of having an abortion, for women who have had it, is something that is deeply penalizing from the point of view of physical and mental health. Not considering this aspect is hypocrisy,” Temido said to parliament, according to Público.
On Wednesday, the ministry announced that the proposal had been withdrawn, and the technical group issued an apology for offending women.