by Steven Ertelt
January 13, 2007
Lisbon, Portugal (LifeNews.com) — Catholic leaders in Portugal are organizing pro-life advocates against a referendum there next month that would legalize abortion within the first 10 weeks of pregnancy. Voters in the western European nation will head to the polls on February 11 to vote and polls show the referendum passing.
Father Carlos Azevedo, secretary of Portugal’s episcopal conference, says that several local diocesan groups have formed to encourage voters to oppose it.
He said they will be "enlightening of consciences" before the vote and told Zenit that the conference will also be helping the pro-life cause by publishing brochures on the abortion referendum.
Though the brochures will give reasons why each voter should oppose legalizing abortion, he told Zenit that each "bishop will see the best way to proceed in his diocese."
A second publication entitled "10 Weeks, 10 Questions: An Exercise of Love" will also be distributed throughout the dioceses in the nation.
Cardinal José da Cruz Policarpo perviously said voters there should get active in the campaign to oppose the referendum because Catholics should "defend life."
"Whatever the reasons, it is always the denial of a place in society to a human being," he said of abortion.
A poll released earlier this month by Portuguese newspaper Correio da Manha and the pollster Aximage shows that 64 percent of the Portuguese people favor the abortion referendum.
The poll found that just over 27 percent of voters would reject the referendum and vote to uphold the country’s current pro-life laws.
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. The poll found nearly 57 percent of voters say they plan to participate.
"It isn’t yet clear, but there is a risk of the ‘yes’ camp winning but voter turnout being less than 50%," pollster Jorge de Sa said told Reuters about the survey.
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.
If the measure is approved Portugal would leave Ireland, Poland and Malta as the only European nations that prohibit abortions.
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.