Portugal’s referendum on abortion takes place this weekend and opinion polls suggest the “yes” vote will win. Surveys in national newspapers found up to 58 percent of people approached would vote in favour of allowing abortion up to the tenth week of pregnancy.
Currently, it is permitted only in cases of rape, foetal malformation or if a mother’s health is in danger. Only three other EU countries have similar restrictions. Prime Minister Jose Socrates called on Portuguese people to “vote for progress”. As Socialist party leader, he has led the campaign for a “yes”.
“Until the end of the campaign we will keep appealing to the Portuguese to vote on this referendum,” the Prime Minister said. Analysts say the conditions for a “yes” vote are more favourable now than in 1998, when a referendum was declared void because fewer than fifty percent of voters turned out. The Prime Minister then opposed the change.
But “No” vote campaigners say the rights of the unborn child are decisive and promote alternatives for mothers. One such campaigner said: “Abortion provokes deep traumas and depression. We have to provide women with a solution that has quality. We propose assistance to help women so that they can have their children and have quality lives.”
Opponents of abortion filled a main Lisbon theatre on Thursday night. They fear changing the law to permit the practice would pave the way for more liberalisation in the majority Catholic country. But the government says it would stop thousands of clandestine abortions each year. Friday is the last day of campaigning before the referendum on Sunday.