The Catholic Church in Portugal has been trying to exert its influence on voters, a month ahead of a referendum on abortion. Under the slogan “Welcome Life as a Gift”, a religious mass and procession in Fatima, just north of Lisbon, urged the public to vote against decriminalisation.
Early polls show around 60% are in favour of a change in the law, which would see abortion made legal in the first ten weeks of pregnancy. Portuguese Catholics generally oppose decriminalisation. “I don’t think anyone has the right to dispose of another’s life, only God” says one woman. “God is the one who can give life to man and take it away.”
Another says she agrees with abortion “as a consequence of rape or if there is a problem with the baby.” Currently there are a few certain circumstances, such as rape, where abortion is permitted. Studies show that in 2005, 18 000 women broke the law and risked prison by aborting secretly. Many others crossed the border into Spain.