With campaigning officially ended, Portugal takes a day to reflect before voting in Sunday’s referendum on abortion. Opinion polls suggest that a majority of people will vote to allow a woman to have a termination within the first 10 weeks of pregnancy. Currently, it is permitted only in cases of rape, foetal malformation or if a mother’s life is in danger.
The change is backed by the country’s Prime Minister, Jose Socrates who criticised those opposed as “wanting to continue criminalising women.” But “No” campaigners say the rights of the unborn child are paramount and are promoting alternatives for mothers as they claim abortion is traumatic and often leads to depression. Isabel Neto spoke against the change saying that the referendum was promoting the relaxing of the abortion laws without any justification.
Portugal held a referendum back in 1998 on the same question. That time the poll was declared void because fewer than fifty percent of voters turned out. Opponents of abortion fear the change in the law could pave the way for more liberalisation in the majority Catholic country. But the government says a “Yes” vote would stop thousands of illegal abortions from taking place each year, putting the health of the women at risk.