Portugal backs abortion15th February 2007
After a clear majority in a referendum voted for the proposal, Portugal's government has pledged to legalise abortion in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy.
The result is not legally binding as fewer than half the electorate voted, however the pro-reform governing Socialists had already made clear beforehand that they would act on the result. Fifty nine per cent of voters backed the reform.
The Catholic Church appealed for people who did not feel able to vote "No" to abstain. The diocese of Dom Jorge Ortiga, Archbishop of Braga and President of the Portuguese Episcopal Conference is in the Catholic heartland of northern Portugal, where a majority of voters rejected reform. This contrasts with Lisbon and the south where there were large majorities in favour.
Prime Minister Jose Socrates said that work on the law would start immediately. He added that the law would provide for "a period of reflection" for a woman considering having an abortion.
There are already well-established illegal practitioners in Portugal, with poorer women resorting to backstreet abortions. Those campaigning against the law have called for more generous maternity benefits in order to encourage women to carry on with their pregnancies.
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