By Gudrun Schultz
LISBON, Portugal, February 12, 2007 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The Portuguese government has said it will push through legislation permitting early stage abortion on demand, despite a low voter turnout that invalidated the results from Sunday’s abortion referendum.
As LifeSiteNews.com anticipated last week, Prime Minister Jose Socrates, with the ruling Socialist Party, said the government will ignore the 44 percent voter turnout, significantly under the more-than 50 percent necessary for a valid result. In a previous referendum held in 1998 on the issue, opposition to abortion came out ahead in the polls but the vote was discarded because of a low voter turnout of 30 percent.
The new proposal will introduce abortion on demand up to 10 weeks gestation. Under the current law, abortion is illegal unless the mother’s life or health is in serious danger, in cases of rape and for fetal abnormality.
Nearly 60 percent of those who showed up to vote were in favour of changing Portugal’s abortion laws. That was enough for Prime Minister Jose Socrates to justify bypassing the insufficient voter turnout rule. That is, according to the government, the expressed wish of 60% of 44% of the voters, which translates into 26% of all Portuguese voters, is considered enough to justify a dramatic change in law on a very contentious issue.
“The people spoke with a clear voice,” he said.
Pro-life supporters say low voter participation shows that a majority of Portuguese have not made up their minds on the issue. In a referendum, a no-show at the polls indicates a lack of support for the issue, said Roger Kiska, legal counsel at the European Center for Law and Justice in Strasbourg, France, according to a report by Cybercast News Service.
“Those were not ‘yes’ votes,” he said. “They do not have, procedurally, the majority of Portuguese registered voters voting [in support of changing the law].”
“In essence, it does not mean, as the prime minister is saying, that Portugal is overwhelmingly saying they want to liberalize the abortion laws. Constitutionally, he is committing a strong violation of the current abortion law.”
José Carlos Sepúlveda da Fonseca, co-founder of the pro-life Family Action in 2000, in an interview with Zenit News Agency Feb. 11, said the Socialist Party made the legalization of abortion a key part of its political agenda.
“The forces that promote the liberalization of abortion are unmistakably the political forces of the left: the Socialist Party as a bloc—with rare exceptions—the Portuguese Communist Party and the left bloc,” he said. “In addition to these are some movements of civil society, more or less close to these political blocs.”
“They have sought to confuse those who are undecided in Portugal, concealing in every way their real intentions and eluding what is really at stake in this referendum: the introduction of free abortion up to the 10th week.”
“In writing the question for the referendum, the party formulated it in such a way that if the ‘yes’ were to win, what would be approved in practice in Portugal would be totally free abortion up to the 10th week. The abortion would be the sole and exclusive choice of the woman, and could be performed in state hospitals and health structures, or with state credentials and financed by the National Health System,” Sepúlveda da Fonseca said.
Sepúlveda da Fonseca said opposition to the push for abortion was highly organized and came from a variety of sources—the movements showed “great vitality and an enormous capacity of mobilization.”
“Linked to these movements are important names of several professional sectors: jurists, doctors, scientists, economists, university professors, sociologists, journalists, etc. In the political field, opposed in a clear and unmistakable way to the liberalization of abortion is the Democrat Social Party-Popular Party, of Christian Democratic inspiration.”
“In the Catholic realm, several bishops and priests are making their voice heard. Notable among them is Archbishop Jorge Ortiga of Braga, president of the bishops’ conference of Portugal; Bishop Manuel Felício of Guarda; and Bishop António Marto of Leiria-Fatima. Among the Catholic laity, several groups have committed themselves actively in the fight against the liberalization of abortion.”
See previous LifeSiteNews coverage:
Portugal Anti-Abortion Demonstration Draws 18,000 Pro-Life Supporters
Socialist Portugal Government to Introduce Abortion Vote January 2007
Portugal to Vote Sunday in Abortion Referendum