By Joseph A. D’Agostino

  FRONT ROYAL, Virginia, February 19, 2007 ( -The global hand of the human extermination movement has taken hold of Portugal, a small country that has long had a low birthrate.  Only four nations in Europe offer strong protection in law for unborn children: Ireland, Portugal, Poland, and Malta.  The European Union and the pro-abortion organizations it generously funds, along with the United Nations and others, have been trying for decades to get these EU members to conform to their abortion orthodoxy.  Now, in the wake of a failed referendum last Sunday, they are on the verge of succeeding in one of those nations.

  The referendum legalizing abortion-on-demand in the first 10 weeks received the approval of 59% of voters and the disapproval of only 41%. Yet, since so few voters showed up to vote—turnout was only 44%—the referendum failed.  No matter.  Socialist Prime Minister Jose Socrates says he will use the referendum to justify what he has long wanted to do anyway, and get a law through parliament legalizing abortion in the first 10 weeks.  This unwise leader plans to do so by July.

  In this 90th anniversary of the appearance of Our Lady at Fatima, Portugal may be about to turn her back on the Catholic Faith and life itself.  The legalization of abortion would only be another symptom of Portugal’s terminal decline, another signpost on her way to eternal oblivion. Portugal’s birthrate dropped below replacement level over 20 years ago and now stands at a meager 1.5 children per woman.  An astonishing 30% of Portuguese will be 65 or over by 2050, way up from 17% today—and that assumes that Portugal’s birthrate will start rising by 2015, a questionable prediction.  More likely, it will continue downward, making Portugal’s median age 54 by 2050 (right now, it’s an already-high 38).

  So, setting moral principle aside, is this the time to legalize abortions of convenience in Portugal?  Portuguese law already allows abortions for the health of the mother and for rape.  The birthrate is suicidally low. Portuguese women can and do pop over the border to Spain for abortions, anyway.  What rational reason can there be for making abortion-on-demand a priority in this dying land?

  Some “yes” voters for the referendum may have been confused by the government’s publicity campaign, which emphasized ending unsafe illegal abortions that sometimes result in the mother’s death.  The government argued that since these abortions occur anyway, they may as well be safely regulated and taxed.  And some pro-legalization campaigners argued that legalization would reduce the number of abortions, though that has been proven historically false.

“We believe that those that voted ‘yes’ to relax the abortion laws were in fact voting against illegal abortions, we in the Church support that,” said Carlos Azevedo, Church spokesman in Portugal.  “What we want to see is improved education among the young and improved support for mothers.”

  Yet it is hard to believe that with a strong pro-life campaign in Portugal spreading the word, most of the 59% who voted yes don’t favor liberalizing abortion laws.  But it’s possible that enough people were confused and too lazy to vote that only a minority of all Portuguese voters really favors what the referendum does.

“The favorable result for the ‘yes’ is a sign of accentuated cultural mutation by the Portuguese people, which we have to confront with realism,” said the Portuguese bishops’ conference in a statement.  It
  blamed “the globalization of ways of thinking and opinions by the media” and said, “We appeal to doctors and health professionals not to hesitate in turning to the statute of ‘conscientious objector’ that the law

  The Dean of the College of Medicine of Portugal said that its Code of Ethics says life begins at conception and thus he expected most doctors to refuse to perform abortions.  However, abortionists haven’t wasted any time, already promising to build a $3.5 million abortion clinic in Lisbon.

  Sadly, the supposedly pro-life leader of the primary opposition party in Portugal, Luis Marques Mendes of the Social Democratic Party, has already caved, saying he will not fight abortion legalization now that the referendum received a majority of those who voted.  Instead, in the mantra of conservative politicians everywhere, he wants to extract a small concession or two from the Left.  “The will of the Portuguese must be respected,” he said.  “It’s important to include in the final version of the new law a compulsory period of counseling for the woman who is thinking of having an abortion.”

  Portugal’s president, Anibal Cavaco Silva, is close to Marques Mendes and could veto a new law.  Yet the main political opposition in parliament is giving up before the parliamentary battle has even begun.

  But there is still hope.  Pro-lifers in Portugal organized to fight the referendum and can remain organized to fight the bill in parliament. Hopefully, they will understand the reality that in this fallen world, politicians respond weakly to appeals based on principle—-“Defend life!”—-and more strongly to threats—-“Vote against this or we’ll vote against you.”

  The Left never gives up.  Portugal voted down an abortion referendum in 1998, so they tried again this year.  They did the same with divorce in Ireland until they won there.  We must take the same attitude, remembering the promise made at Fatima: “In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph.”

  Joseph A. D’Agostino is Vice President for Communications at the Population Research Institute.