LISBON, February 21, 2005 ( – Portugal has joined the ranks of EU nations that, while nominally Catholic, have elected socialist governments bent on overturning their countries’ abortion laws. Rising unemployment under the centre right Portuguese Social Democrat party was used as a lever to gain a Socialist win of 45% of the vote and a majority in Portugal’s Parliament in Sunday’s election.

Portugal’s Socialist Party is roughly equivalent in policy to England’s Labour Party according to the BBC. The Socialist party ran on a platform that included a promise to conduct a national referendum to overturn the country’s official prohibition on abortion. No date has yet been announced for the abortion referendum. 

On Sunday, the Socialists won 120 of the 230 seats in parliament, making it unlikely that an electoral alliance will be formed with either the Communist party or the Left Bloc, both of which support legalized abortion. The Left Block, a coalition of various leftist formations including the Communists and Greens, saw its number of MPs increase almost threefold, from 3 to 8. 

Just over 90% of Portugal’s approximately 10 million citizens register as Catholics. As with most traditionally Catholic European countries, however, the Church has, since the 60’s, seen a precipitous decline in Mass attendance, in the number of men attending services and, perhaps most tellingly, in the birth rate. Portugal’s population is steadily decreasing and aging, with the birth rate at about 1.4. In many Catholic countries, the all-pervasiveness of Catholic culture can result in the growth of indifference and even outright hostility to its actual religious tenets, as was seen in Quebec after the 1960’s.

To be Portuguese is to be Catholic culturally, but not necessarily religious. The growth of Portugal’s rejection of the Catholic faith is reflected in its social policy. The right to contraception was written into the constitution in 1976 and the recent growth of the homosexual activist movement has matched its escalation elsewhere. 

The International Planned Parenthood website boasts that in Portugal, “contraceptives are widely available and prescriptive methods are free-of-charge. First-trimester abortion is legal on physical or mental health grounds, or in the case of rape…(and the) proposed liberalization of the (abortion) law has demonstrated strong ‘pro choice’ support.” 

Worthy of note to Catholics is the fact that this election comes immediately following the death of Portugal’s unofficial living saint, Sr. Lucia Marto, a Carmelite nun who was the last surviving one of three children to whom the Virgin Mary appeared in 1917. One of the promises the Virgin reportedly made to Lucia was that the Catholic faith will never completely fail in Portugal.