by Steven Ertelt
October 20, 2006
Lisbon, Portugal (LifeNews.com) — Two new polls in Portugal have vastly different results on whether residents of the Catholic nation want to legalize abortion there. The polls come just one day after the country’s parliament approved sending an abortion referendum to the voters, who will likely head to the polls in January.
A poll published on Friday in the daily newspaper Publico claimed 53 percent of eligible voters favor making abortion legal while 21 percent want to continue to prohibit it.
Another 10 percent said they had no opinion and 16 percent said they wouldn’t vote.
The Publico poll found, however, that Portuguese residents don’t agree with the language of the abortion referendum, which would legalize all abortions within the first 10 weeks of pregnancy.
Over 70 percent of voters there favor legal abortion in cases of rape and incest, but only 34 percent said they back legalized abortion for any reason.
That means Portuguese people favor existing law, which makes abortions illegal but allows them 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.
That poll differs from a survey published Thursday in the daily newspaper Correio da Manha which found just 47.9 percent of voters want to legalize abortion while 39.9 percent are opposed.
In that poll, older residents and those in rural areas were more likely to prefer keeping abortion illegal.
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."
The debate between now and January, which has not yet been set as the official date for the vote, will likely focus on the number of illegal abortions that occur in the European nation. Supporters of making abortion legal use the argument that illegal abortions are hurting women, even though legalizing the procedure doesn’t make it any safer.
Pro-abortion groups claim that about 10,000 illegal abortions occur every year in Portugal. 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.
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.
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?"
Prime Minister Jose Socrates has vowed he and his Socialist Party will actively campaign in favor of the referendum.
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.
Among European nations, Poland and Ireland also have similar abortion prohibitions and Malta bans abortion altogether.