by Steven Ertelt
October 16, 2006
Lisbon, Portugal (LifeNews.com) — The Portuguese parliament is expected to approve an abortion referendum on Thursday. The measure, which would likely go before voters in January, would legal abortion through the first 10 weeks of pregnancy in this strongly Catholic nation.
The governing center-left Socialist Party has been pressing for legalizing abortion for some time and now the main opposition parties have said they won’t oppose a national vote on abortion.
Pro-abortion groups claim that about 10,000 illegal abortions occur every year in Portugal, though legalizing abortion won’t make it any safer for women.
"We have to end this blight of backstreet abortions," Prime Minister Jose Socrates said last weekend, according to AP. "It makes Portugal a backward country."
With the Socialists having a majority in parliament the ballot measure is almost guaranteed to be approved and sent to voters.
Last year a Portugal court blocked a vote the government had planned for November. 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.
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?"
Whether residents of the Western European national will approve the abortion referendum is another matter.
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.
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."
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.
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.