The decriminalisation of abortion in Portugal should go ahead but faces one last obstacle after a low turnout in Sunday’s referendum. With less than half the electorate casting their ballot the decision is not legally binding, giving it an amber light rather than a full go-ahead. Portugal’s Socialist Prime Minister José Socrates will be able to use his majority to push the law through Parliament.
“Termination in the first ten weeks of pregnancy for a healthy, consenting woman will no longer be a crime in our country,” he said.
For the bill to be passed directly the abstention level needed to be under half. However, over 56 percent did not cast their vote, meaning Parliament has the final say. Of those who did turn out, nearly 60 percent voted for a relaxation of the law, a comfortable majority over those who wanted abortion to remain illegal.
But the leader of the opposition Popular Party, who campaigned for the ‘No’ vote, called it a “sad chapter in Portugal’s history”. Low turnout confirmed abortion was not a critical issue said José Ribeiro e Castro, who promised not to surrender easily.
But the Socialist government has enough parliamentary seats and support from other parties to pass the law that will stop abortion being a crime.