by Steven Ertelt
January 29, 2007
Lisbon, Portugal (LifeNews.com) — More than 9,000 pro-life advocates took to the streets in Portugal over the weekend to express their opposition to an upcoming abortion referendum there that would legalize abortion within the first 10 weeks of pregnancy. Portuguese voters will head to the polls on February 11 to cast their ballots on the referendum.
The march saw both Catholic leaders and the heads of pro-life groups side by side with people from various political parties urging a No vote.
The pro-life rally was also part of a nationwide educational campaign the Catholic Church and pro-life organizations have conducted.
New polls show the campaign is working.
A poll released in early January by Portuguese newspaper Correio da Manha and the pollster Aximage showed 64 percent of the Portuguese people favored the abortion referendum.
However, a new survey published Friday in the daily Jornal de Noticias found only 38 percent of Portuguese voters will support legalizing abortion. That’s down from the newspaper’s earlier poll showing 53 percent of registered voters would back it.
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 and only 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.