by Steven Ertelt
June 29, 2005
Lisbon, Portugal (LifeNews.com) — The ruling Socialist party in Portugal announced Wednesday that it plans to hold a nationwide referendum next month on whether to legalize abortion in this western European nation. They promised such a vote during their campaign in advance of the February elections that put them in power.
Socialist parliamentary leader Alberto Martins told the Lusa news agency that the government filed a bill to allow a vote on abortion on July 8. He met with Prime Minister Jose Socrates on Tuesday to finalize the details.
"Our proposal is to create the conditions so that the president can set out a period for the referendum that we want and we propose to hold this year," Martins told Lusa.
The proposal would lower the amount of time a president needs beforehand to call for a national vote from 60 to 40 days and would make it so only a majority of the country’s parliament is needed to allow a national referendum instead of a two-thirds vote.
In 1998, Portuguese voters turned down a referendum seeking to legalize abortion by a 51-49 percent vote.
Portugal’s abortion laws are some of the strongest in Europe and abortions are only allowed up to 12 weeks into pregnancy and for very rare reasons such as rape or incest. Ireland and Malta are other European nations with pro-life laws against abortion.
In March 2004, members of Portugal’s parliament voted down three separate proposals to legalize abortion after more than 200,000 petitions were submitted against them.
"The solution for a woman in difficulty should never be the death of her unborn child," one of the leaders of a pro-life coalition, Teresa Aires de Campos, said after the vote.
"We want to create a society where a newborn child is never seen as a burden that needs to be eliminated. We want to create a country where a child is always welcomed."
The bills, floated by left-wing parties, would have legalized abortion for any reason up to 12 weeks into pregnancy and up to 24 weeks for problem circumstances.
Members of parliament also voted against a proposal to send a vote on abortion to the ballot.
Officially, only 280 abortions were carried out in 1997 in a country with a population of over 10 million.
The Socialists won in the February elections and replaced the Social Democrats, who formed a coalition government with the more conservative Popular Party.