by Steven Ertelt
November 30, 2006
Lisbon, Portugal (LifeNews.com) — Portugal President Aníbal Cavaco made an upcoming national vote on abortion official Wednesday when he signed off on a measure the country’s parliament approved. If voters support the referendum, abortion would be legalized within the first 10 weeks of pregnancy for any reason.
The vote on the abortion referendum is scheduled to take place on February 11 and voters back it, Portugal would leave Ireland, Poland and Malta as the only European nations that prohibit abortions.
To go into effect, a majority of voters must approve the abortion referendum and more than 50 percent of the nation’s residents must turn out in order for the vote to count.
Voters would be asked the following question: "Do you agree with the decriminalization of voluntary termination of pregnancy if it takes place, at the woman’s request, within the first ten weeks of pregnancy in a legally authorized medical facility?"
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.
Previously, Portugal Prime Minister Jose Socrates endorsed the abortion referendum but he said the government would not press ahead with legislation to legalize abortion unless voters approved the measure at the ballot box.
Socrates said that the government could move a bill through the Portuguese legislature to legalize abortion but he wants the public to sign off on legalization.
"We will only pass this law if the ‘yes’ gets more votes that the ‘no’," Socrates said. "We only need one vote, but we need it to do it."
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.
Polls have show conflicting results on what Portugal’s citizens will do.
A new survey reported on by the Diario de Noticias daily newspaper showed 61% of those surveyed would support lifting the abortion ban while 30% would vote against it.
That’s a stark difference from a poll released in early October.
A poll published in the daily newspaper Publico claimed 53 percent of eligible voters favor making abortion legal and a survey published by the daily newspaper Correio da Manha which found just 47.9 percent of voters want to legalize abortion.
The Catholic Church said it is urging voters there to oppose the referendum.
Cardinal José da Cruz Policarpo said voters there should get active in the campaign to oppose the referendum because Catholics should "defend life."
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.