by Steven Ertelt
October 31, 2005
Lisbon, Portugal (LifeNews.com) — A Portuguese court has blocked a vote that the Socialist government had planned for November to overturn the nation’s laws prohibiting abortion. The court ruled the vote could not take place before September 2006 because the country’s parliament previously rejected a measure earlier this year to hold a vote.
Prime Minister Jose Socrates, who favors abortion, said he would abide by the ruling and called on Monday for a vote then.
"We want a law which is more modern and more European," he said, according to a BBC report and announced his government would propose a referendum for next September.
His government originally proposed November 27 as the vote date.
The Socialist Party and the extreme Left Bloc (BE) were pressing for the vote now, but the main opposition the Social Democrat Party (PSD) says it prefers to hold the vote after the 2006 presidential elections in January.
Portuguese President Jorge Sampaio put off a proposed July vote because he worried that too many citizens would be on vacation and the vote needs at least 50% turnout to be ratified.
In 1998, Portuguese voters turned down a referendum seeking to legalize abortion by a 51-49 percentage vote and only 30 percent of those eligible to vote participated.
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.