Portugal Voters Back Abortion Referendum By 2-1 Margin Poll Shows

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Oct 31, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Portugal Voters Back Abortion Referendum By 2-1 Margin Poll Shows Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
October 31
, 2006

Lisbon, Portugal (LifeNews.com) — A new poll of Portuguese voters finds that they back a referendum to legalize abortions by a two to one margin. However, polling in this Catholic nation has been fluid ever since its parliament approved the measure and it is expected to change as campaigning begins heavily on it over the next few months.

The new survey, conducted by the polling firm Marktest finds 63 percent of residents of the western European nation would back the abortion referendum.

The measure won’t head to voters until conservative President Anibal Cavaco Silva approves it for the ballot. That is expected to be a formality.

That’s a stark difference from two polls release two weeks ago, that also showed conflicting results.

A poll published 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 poll differs from a survey published by the daily newspaper Correio da Manha which found just 47.9 percent of voters want to legalize abortion while 39.9 percent are opposed.

Last week, the Catholic Church said it is urging voters there to oppose the referendum.

Contrary to news reports in the Portuguese media, the church doesn’t want Catholics to abstain from voting.

News reports initially indicated that Cardinal José da Cruz Policarpo had urged voters to abstain from voting in the referendum, but he says he’s urging the Portuguese people to vote no.

"My replies to questions on the theory of a new referendum on abortion were incorrectly used by some of the media, and also by political forces and seem to have created confusion and even indignation in some people," he said, according to a Zenit report.

Cardinal Policarpo said voters there should get active in the campaign to oppose the referendum because Catholics should "defend life."

"It is clear that respect for life is an exigency of Christian morality" to oppose abortion," he added, according to Zenit. "As it is a precept of Christian morality, it is a grave sin to violate it."

The measure would legalize abortions in Portugal for any reason during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy. Current law 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.

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.

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.