Portuguese abortion ban to be overturned

The country's prime minister pledges to soon legalize abortion.

Published February 12, 2007 7:08PM (EST)

Soon, Portuguese women will no longer face up to three years in jail for having an abortion. The Roman Catholic country's government has vowed to overturn the ban on abortion, reports Reuters. Currently, abortion is outlawed except within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy for cases of rape and fetal defects or when the mother's life is in danger.

On Sunday, Portuguese voters weighed in on a referendum to legalize abortion, with more than 59 percent in favor of scrapping the ban. Less than half of the electorate took part in the vote, though, thereby voiding the results. Luís Marques Mendes, leader of the Social Democratic Party, said the voters' will should be respected despite the low turnout. But he noted that they still face a fight over the specifics of the law. "It's important to include in the final version of the new law a compulsory period of counselling for the woman who is thinking of having an abortion," he said.

Similarly, Prime Minister José Sócrates said the new law would mandate "a period of reflection" -- that's an idea ripe for political exploitation, so it'll be interesting to see the final wording of the bill. Unfortunately, there's no word on just how soon that will be; Sócrates would not say when exactly the issue would face Parliament.

I say this with slight hesitation, but it's better that in this historically conservative country the idea is moving forward at a sluggish pace than not at all.

By Tracy Clark-Flory

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