by Steven Ertelt
July 8, 2005
Lisbon, Portugal (LifeNews.com) — Portugal is one step closer to holding a national referendum on whether to legalize abortion after its parliament voted Friday to allow for faster schedule on when the ruling government can call for a national vote.
The legislative body voted to allow just 40 days ahead of such a vote instead of the customary 180 days. The measure also drops from 180 days to 60 days the period needed before a presidential election and reduces the time before an election in which new voters can register to vote.
The vote allows the ruling Socialist party in Portugal to hold the national vote on abortion planned for August.
The party 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 about the voting bill last week.
"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.
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 at that time 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.