By Gudrun Schultz

LISBON, Portugal, September 18, 2006 ( – Portugal’s ruling Socialist Party announced plans to hold an abortion referendum in January 2007 last Friday, to question voters on support for legislation allowing abortions during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy, Euro News reported today.

Abortion is banned in the largely Catholic nation, with exceptions up to the twelfth week in cases of rape, incest, fetal abnormality or serious danger to the life or health of the mother. After twelve weeks no abortions are permitted for any reason.

The opposition party Christian Democrats responded to the announcement by reiterating their determination to protect the country’s laws banning most abortions.

“We are opposed to a liberalisation of abortion legislation as a matter of principle,” said party spokesman Nuno Melo. “Proposals like this are not going to make us shift our position. Do not expect a change of heart from the Christian Democrats in parliament on this.”

Voted into power in February 2005, the Socialist Party ran on a platform that promised to hold a national referendum to overturn the country’s prohibition against abortion. An attempt to hold the referendum in November 2005 was denied by the constitutional court, on the grounds that current president Sampaio had already rejected an abortion referendum once during his term of office.

A petition containing 190,000 signatures opposing abortion was presented to lawmakers in March of 2004, after parliament announced it would reopen the abortion debate. In the face of concerted pro-life opposition, President Sampaio was forced to cancel referendum plans.

Over 90 percent of Portuguese citizens are registered as Catholic—the number of residents actually practicing their religion is drastically lower, however, in a country now more culturally Catholic than religiously faithful.

Portugal voters upheld the country’s abortion ban in a 1998 referendum, but only by a narrow margin with a small voter turnout of 30 percent.Â

The final decision on the proposed date for the coming referendum will be decided by President Sampaio.

See previous LifeSiteNews coverage:

Abortion-Pushing Socialists Elected in Portugal

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

Abortion Referendum in Portugal Delayed Until September 2006