by Steven Ertelt
October 19, 2006
Lisbon, Portugal (LifeNews.com) — The Portuguese parliament has approved a measure for voters there to consider there that would legalize abortion. No date has been set for the national referendum but it is expected to take place early next year.
The measure, which would likely go before voters in January, would legalize abortion through the first 10 weeks of pregnancy in this strongly Catholic nation.
Currently, abortions are illegal, but allowed through the 12th week of pregnancy in cases of rape, incest, life of the mother, or when the unborn child has severe physical or mental handicaps.
Before the measure can go before voters, the nation’s Constitutional Court and the president must approve the proposal, but that is considered a formality.
"Our current laws say that a woman who aborts should be criminally prosecuted," Socialist legislator Alberto Martins said during the debate, according to an AP report. "This is, in the 21st century and in Europe, an unfair, cruel, retrograde and irrational stance."
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."
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 nation 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."
Approximately 1,000 legal abortions are currently done each year in Portugal and many women travel to neighboring Spain to have abortions done outside the country’s current limits.
Among European nations, Poland and Ireland also have similar abortion prohibitions and Malta bans abortion altogether.