By Gudrun Schultz

LISBON, Portugal, October 20, 2006 ( – Ongoing efforts to break down Portugal’s laws against abortion took another step forward yesterday, as Parliament approved holding a government-initiated national referendum on abortion,, the Associated Press reported.

The referendum will ask Portuguese citizens to vote on a proposal to allow abortions on demand up to 10 weeks of pregnancy. Under current laws, abortion is not permitted in the Roman Catholic country except in cases of rape, fetal malformation, or if the mother’s health is endangered, and then only up until 12 weeks gestation.

Anticipated sometime in January 2007, the referendum must draw more than 50Â percent of voters before the results will be considered valid. In a 1998 referendum on a proposed government measure legalizing abortion throughout all nine months of pregnancy, Portuguese voters narrowly rejected a change in law.

The results were discarded as invalid, however, after only 30 percent of registered voters participated.

The ruling Socialist Party has consistently pushed for liberal abortion laws over the past decade, introducing repeated measures that would remove protection for the unborn child.

Earlier this week Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates launched a pro-abortion campaign to encourage a “yes” vote in the referendum. The government announced the coming national vote on the issue last month.

See previous LifeSiteNews coverage:

Portugese Gov’t Launches Pro-Abortion Campaign

Socialist Portugal Government to Introduce Abortion Vote January 2007

Abortion-Pushing Socialists Elected in Portugal