By Gudrun Schultz

  LISBON, Portugal, Feb. 7, 2007 ( –  Campaigning continues in Portugal in preparation for the coming abortion referendum vote on Sunday Feb. 11.

  The ruling Socialist Party has been pushing for liberal abortion laws with a proposal to make abortion on demand legal up until 10 weeks gestation. Currently in the historically Catholic nation abortion is illegal except in cases of fetal abnormality or to save the life of the mother, and then only up until the 12th week.

  The referendum will ask voters to support or reject the proposed change to the law. While more than eight million electors are eligible to vote, observers are anticipating a low voter turnout on an issue that is highly divisive in the country.

“Abstentions will be high, between 45 and 55 percent,” said pollster Rui Oliveira Costa, reported Reuters.

  More than half of all eligible voters must participate in the referendum for the results to be considered valid. A previous referendum in 1998 resulted in a ‘no’ win, a victory for those who want to maintain Portugal’s laws against abortion, but the results were discarded as invalid since only 30 percent of the electorate showed up for the vote.

  There is speculation that a vote for the yes side would not be discarded even if total voter turnout is under half.

  Regardless, the Socialist government has said it will turn to Parliament to pass abortion legislation if low voter turnout renders the referendum results void—the government holds a majority of seats.

  A poll last week showed plummeting support for changing the legislation, with 38 percent of those questioned saying they would support the proposal, down 15 percentage points from October.

  See previous LifeSiteNews coverage:

  Abortion Referendum Planned for Portugal by New Socialist Government

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

  Five Convicted of Abortion Crimes in Portugal