By Elizabeth O’Brien

LISBON, Portugal, June 21, 2007 ( – Portugal threw away some of the strictest restrictions on abortion in Europe after a new law offering free abortions up to the tenth week of pregnancy went into effect June 15, reports the International Herald Tribune.

Previously, abortion was illegal except for cases of rape, incest, malformation of the fetus or if the health of the mother was seriously endangered. Abortion was only permitted up to the twelfth week of pregnancy (see

At present, the new law permits abortion on demand up to ten weeks into pregnancy. Abortions can be obtained at private clinics or received free of charge at hospitals, reports the Tribune. Catholic doctors are free to refrain from performing an abortion on the grounds of conscience.

A slight restriction remains, in that women must have a three-day “reflection period” prior to an abortion. Once the abortion has taken place, they must participate in mandatory education classes on contraception. 

The law passed following a February 11 national vote on a referendum question that slightly favored easing the abortion laws. As with an earlier referendum in 1998, however, less than half the population voted, thus making the results technically invalid. Despite this fact, socialist Prime Minister Jose Socrates continued to push for fewer restrictions until President Anibal Cavaco Silva finally rubber-stamped the new legislation in March (see

See previous LifeSiteNews coverage:

Socialist Portugal Government to Introduce Abortion Vote January 2007

Ruling Socialists in Portugal Will Introduce Bill to Legalize Abortion in September

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