.- Portugal’s ruling Socialist Party began an effort this week to legalize abortion through a national referendum, which could take place in the coming months pending approval by the country’s Parliament.
The effort, led by the Portuguese socialist delegation to the European Parliament, is an attempt to “launch a serious and very informed debate” on abortion, according to Representative Edite Estrela, who said it would be “the first great debate” in Portugal about a possible referendum.
Portugal’s Prime Minister, Jose Socrates, defended the need to legalize abortion the country as “essential for combating clandestine abortion and ensuring that women who desire to seek an abortion up to the tenth week of pregnancy are not persecuted or penalized.”
The Minister of Health, Antonio Correia de Campos, also weighed in on the issue, calling on women and doctors to support the legalization of abortion but offering assurances that if the referendum does not pass, “the Government will enforce current law,” which punishes both the facilities that offer abortion and the women who obtain them, as well as third parties that did not intervene to stop the procedure.
Correia echoed the arguments of Prime Minister Socrates in his defense of need to legalize abortion and said doctors should “assume a democratic and progressive vision with regard to the protection of the sexual and reproductive health of women.” “The legality of abortion as a medical practice should not be delayed any longer,” he added.
Correia also stated that the health ministry would ensure that both state-run and private health care facilities would provide abortion services as currently permitted under Portuguese law, which allows the practice in cases of life of the mother, rape or fetal deformation, and that the government would redouble its efforts to provide family planning information on all forms of contraception.