Portugal Government Plans for Vote to Legalize Abortion

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 30, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

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by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
June 30, 2006

Lisbon, Portugal (LifeNews.com) — The ruling Socialist government in Portugal is moving ahead with plans to call for a vote in parliament in September that would place a proposal on the ballot in January 2007 for Portuguese voters to consider. Should voters approve the proposal, abortion would be legalized in the European nation through the 12th week of pregnancy.

Last year a Portugal court blocked a vote the 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 in the year to hold a vote.

Prime Minister Jose Socrates, who favors abortion, said then that he would abide by the ruling and called for a vote by September of this year.

Socialist spokesperson and member of parliament Vitalino Canas confirmed to The Portugal News the plans for the September and January votes. He indicated the nation’s parliament would likely vote on the ballot measure on September 15.

With the Socialists having a majority in parliament the ballot measure is almost guaranteed to be approved and sent to voters.

If the referendum is approved, the likely question will be: "Do you agree that an abortion performed during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, with the consent of the woman in a legal medical establishment, cease being viewed as a crime?"

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. Current polls show a new vote on a referendum to legalize abortion would pass.

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.

Elections have since changed the makeup of the parliament. The Socialists won in the February elections and replaced the Social Democrats, who formed a coalition government with the more conservative Popular Party.

"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."

Portugal currently bans abortions in most cases and they are only allowed in rare exceptions such as preventing the death of the mother or in cases of rape, incest, or when the baby has major physical disabilities. No abortions can be done after 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Approximately 1,000 legal abortions are currently done each year.

Ireland and Malta are other European nations with pro-life laws against abortion.