by Steven Ertelt
February 19, 2007
Lisbon, Portugal (LifeNews.com) — The prime minister of Portugal says that a new law legalizing abortion within the first 10 weeks of pregnancy could come into effect as early as the end of March. Portuguese voters defeated an abortion referendum at the polls just over a week ago when fewer than half of the country’s residents failed to show up.
Some 58 percent of those voting said they favored making abortion legal but the vote didn’t count because half of the European nation’s voters needed to participate.
It marked the second time the nation’s citizens defeated an attempt to legalize abortions.
Following the vote, Prime Minister Jose Socrates said he would push for a bill in the nation’s legislature to legalize abortion. Over the weekend he aid that could happen by the end of next month.
"We have waited many years, many decades so I think the Portuguese will be patient enough to wait until Parliament produces a law that will benefit from the good experiences other countries with similar laws have," he told the weekly newspaper Expresso.
Because Socrates’ Socialist government has a strong majority in parliament, most observers expect a bill to pass.
Meanwhile, a leading physician says doctors there don’t want to do abortions and would seek a conscience clause to make sure they can opt out.
The Dean of the College of Medicine of Portugal, Pedro Nunes, said this week that the Physicians’ Code of Ethics defends human life from conception. Nunes said that doctors, therefore, have the right to exercise conscientious objection in the event that abortion is imposed on the country.
In statements to the EFE news agency, Nunes recalled that the College of Medicine did not take an official position during the recent referendum on the legalization of abortion.
Nevertheless, he emphasized that most doctors defend life from the moment of conception.
Article 47 of the Code of Ethics states, “Doctors must show respect for human life from its inception.” Likewise, it warns that the practice of euthanasia and abortion “constitutes a grave ethical violation,” except in cases of rape or life and health of the mother up to the twelfth week of pregnancy.