Portugal Parliament Committee Approves Bill to Legalize Abortion

International   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 8, 2007   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

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by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
March 8
, 2007

Lisbon, Portugal (LifeNews.com) — As observers expected it would do, a committee within the Portuguese parliament has approved legislation that would legalize abortion in this Western European nation. The panel gave initial approval to the bill yesterday and was expected to finalize the measure today.

The bill follows the February defeat of an abortion referendum on the nation’s ballot. It would legalize all abortions within the first 10 weeks of pregnancy.

The measure also includes a three day waiting period between the request for an abortion and the performance of one.

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. Examined another way, just 26.2 percent of Portuguese voters backed legalizing abortion.

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.

In the committee, Socrates’ ruling Socialist Party joined with members of the Communist Party, the Left Block and the Green Party to support legalizing abortion.

The Social Democrat Party and the Christian Democrat Party, both conservative opposition parties, opposed the bill. They also were hoping to get an amendment to it to require women to meet with a counselor who would advise them of better options than abortion.

Once the bill gets to the full parliament, it will likely be approved because the Socialist Party holds a majority of the votes in the legislature, known as the Republican Assembly, and can count on the support of other liberal parties as well.

If it’s approved, the new legal abortion law would likely go into effect this summer.

Last month, a leading physician said doctors in Portugal 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 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.

Portugal is one of only four countries in Europe — the others are Ireland, Poland and Malta — that have laws protecting unborn children from abortion.