By Gudrun Schultz

  LISBON, Portugal, March 9, 2007 ( – The Portuguese Parliament approved legislation yesterday that would introduce early-term abortion on demand up to the 10th week of pregnancy, despite low voter support for the measure in the predominantly Catholic country.

  Up to this point, abortions have only been permitted in cases of rape or for the health of the mother and then only to 12 weeks gestation. Under the proposed legislation abortion will be permitted for any reason within the first 10 weeks, only requiring that women observe a three-day “cooling-off” period between requesting an abortion and undergoing the procedure.

  A referendum held in February drew less than half of the country’s voters, with only 26 percent of the voting population casting votes in favour of the abortion proposal. With 44 percent turnout, the referendum was declared void under Portuguese law.

  Prime Minister Jose Socrates declared he would ignore the referendum results, however, and presented the proposal to Parliament—with an absolute majority in the legislature and support from left-leaning parties, the Socialist Party was well-placed to push through abortion legislation despite strong opposition from Catholic and pro-family organizations within the country.

  The bill’s passage into law is essentially assured, awaiting only the prime minister’s signature some time within the next 20 days. PM Jose Socrates has been the driving force behind loosening of the abortion laws—he led the ‘yes’ campaign to encourage voters to support the proposal in February’s referendum. The Portuguese government has worked to introduce abortion legislation in the country for more than a decade.

  The law must be published in official government records after receiving prime ministerial ratification, and will likely come into effect before the summer.

  See previous LifeSiteNews coverage:

  Portugal Abortion Bill Approved by Legislative Committee

  Portugal Government Shows Hypocrisy in Abortion Vote Bias

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