Thousands of pro-life campaigners have taken part in a “walk for life” in Portugal, just days before the country holds its second referendum on abortion. Participants set off from the steps of a maternity hospital in the capital, Lisbon. Estimations of numbers differed – the organisers claimed said 20 thousand but the authorities claimed it was nearer ten.
Representatives of foreign associations were present at the event, including those of France, Spain and Italy.
“Above all, it’s a life, and we have to fight for that, and provide people with the support they need to have to baby,” one woman said.
Portugal, one of the few countries in Europe that bans abortion, will hold the vote on February 11. If voters opt to change the law, terminations during the first ten weeks of pregnancy will be allowed. The majority of Portuguese are in favour of legalising abortion. But that number has fallen from 72 percent to 59 percent recently, according to research by Lisbon’s Catholic University.
41 percent are against, while the number of undecided is said to be rising. Prime Minister José Socrates sought to convince the waverers: “I am voting yes for the following reasons – to fight against back-street abortions which are common under the current law. I want to have legislation which does not lead to a prison sentence, because that is not the answer. In fact it exacerbates the problem.”
50 percent of the electorate must vote for the result to be valid. Otherwise it will be non-binding, as in 1998 when too few people turned out. Analysts say the number of confirmed voters is falling – meaning a repeat of nine years ago is a possibility.