by Steven Ertelt
February 9, 2007
Lisbon, Portugal (LifeNews.com) — No other country sees the kind of organized abortion debate as the United States with thousands of groups on both sides active in education, legislation and elections. American groups also seek to influence the abortion policies of other countries and they have traveled to Portugal to lobby its upcoming vote.
Citizens of the western European nation are scheduled to vote on Sunday on a referendum to legalize abortion within the first 10 weeks of pregnancy.
Currently, the western European nation only allows abortion 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.
The pro-life group Human Life International and the pro-abortion legal group Center for Reproductive Rights have been actively campaigning in Portugal and helping their partner organizations lobby the vote.
"There’s a growing movement willing to go to bat for unborn children in Portugal and elsewhere in Europe" HLI President Thomas Euteneuer said, according to a USA Today report.
However, Christina Zampas, European legal adviser for CRR, says the "power of the anti-choice movement is not as strong" in Europe as in the U.S., but "it is growing."
"You wouldn’t have seen this six years ago," Zampas added, talking about moves in various countries to limit abortion.
However, the pro-life cause is catching on in traditionally pro-abortion Europe because several nations are experiencing underpopulation problems. As abortion has depleted their populations, the nations are seeing worker shortages and having problems sustaining their economies and supporting the elderly.
"When you kill babies, you’re killing your population," Euteneuer says.
Portugal is one of just a handful of nations on the continent, including Ireland, Poland and Malta, that make abortions illegal.
For the abortion legalization referendum to be valid a majority of voters must approve it and more than 50 percent of the nation’s residents must turn out to vote for it to count. Portuguese voters turned back a previous effort to legalize abortion in 1998 on a 51-49 percentage margin and just 30 percent of the people voted.
The latest polls show the number of people supporting legalizing abortion dropping as pro-life groups and the Catholic church undertake extensive educational campaigns. Surveys also show as many as 45-55 percent of voters will not vote.
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.