Portugal Anti-Abortion Demonstration Draws 18,000 Pro-Life Supporters

By Gudrun Schultz

  LISBON, Portugal, January 29, 2007 ( - Thousands of pro-life demonstrators marched through the capital city of Portugal yesterday, in anticipation of a national referendum on legalizing abortion scheduled in two weeks’ time.

  A coalition of 40 pro-life associations participated in the protest, with organizers estimating more than 18,000 people attended the march. The demonstrators carried flags and banners representing all stages of life, from conception to old age. The route led from a maternity center in the center of Lisbon to the western section of the city, the Associated Press reported Sunday.

  The governing Socialist Party, under Prime Minister Jose Socrates, called the abortion referendum last fall, following up on an election promise to definitively address the ongoing battle over abortion in the country. Portugal has relatively stringent laws in place against abortion, permitting it only in cases of rape, serious physical deformity of the child, or when the health of the mother is at risk, and then only up until twelve weeks gestation.

  The referendum will ask voters if abortion should be permitted on demand up until 10 weeks gestation. The exact wording of the referendum question will be, “Do you approve that an abortion, carried out during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy, with the woman’s consent and in an authorized medical facility, no longer be a crime?”

  The latest poll showed a significant drop in voter support for the referendum, with just 38 percent of respondents indicating they would vote in favor of the proposed change, down 15 points since October, when 53 percent said they would support the change, according to a report by Angus Reid Global Monitor. 

  Twenty-eight percent of respondents said they would vote against the proposed changes to abortion law, and 21 percent said they would abstain from voting, placing the combined number of opposed/abstaining voters at a majority of 49 percent. Fourteen percent indicated they were still unsure of how they would respond to the referendum.

  The poll was conducted by Universidade Catolica, released by RTP and Publico.

  While support for easier access to abortion is high in the country, poor voter turnout would render the results void. More than 50 percent of the population must vote before the referendum would be considered valid.

  In a previous referendum on abortion in 1998, a narrow majority of voters rejected abortion on demand, at 51 percent. With only 31 percent of registered voters participating, however, the results were discarded.

  The Socialist Party has been pushing for open access to abortion for the past decade, beginning with a 1997 bill to introduce unrestricted abortion that was defeated by just one vote in Parliament. The country’s strong pro-life movement has been a significant force in preventing the passage of liberal abortion laws so far.

  See Angus Reid Global Monitor:

  See previous LifeSiteNews coverage:

  Abortion Referendum Planned for Portugal by New Socialist Government

  Five Convicted of Abortion Crimes in Portugal

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