The Portuguese parliament is to vote on whether or not to hold a referendum on abortion. Under current laws, a woman can be jailed for up to three years in Portugal, for having an illegal abortion. There are exceptions only if her life is in danger, to protect her health or in cases of rape, incest or foetal impairment.
The Prime Minister launched the campaign for the referendum last Saturday. The government wants also to stop the thousands of “backstreet” abortions which take place every year. If MPs vote to hold the referendum, it will go ahead in January.
Voters could be asked: “Do you agree that abortions, carried out in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy, with the woman’s consent, in a legal medical establishment, should cease to be a crime?”. In the last referendum in 1998, voters upheld the existing laws by 51% to 49%. But public opinion in the country reportedly changed, after a series of prosecutions of women. According to a recent poll, more than 47% of Portuguese people are in favour of decriminalising abortion and up to 40% against.