Portugal to decide on abortion legalisation

The Portuguese Church is leading the campaign to oppose efforts to legalise abortion in a national referendum on the issue to be held this month with one bishop describing abortion as a "variation of capital punishment".

As official campaigning began on the issue, polls indicate that support for liberalisation is slipping, France 24 reports.

Some 8.5 million registered voters will be asked on 11 February if they agree with the legalisation of abortion for all women until the 10th week of pregnancy.

The practice is currently allowed only until the 12th week of pregnancy in cases of rape, a malformed foetus or if the woman's life is in danger.

Women can be jailed for up to three years for having an illegal abortion while those who perform them face up to eight years behind bars.

Prime Minister Jose Socrates, who began an official visit to China on Tuesday, called backstreet abortions a "national disgrace" in a video message posted on his Socialist Party's website which urged voters to change the law.

"We want to change the existing law so that woman who have abortions can be accompanied by health centres and social services instead of by prosecutors and police," he said.

A poll published Friday in the daily newspaper Jornal de Noticas found 38 per cent of likely voters intended to cast ballots in favour of changing the law, down from 53 per cent in a poll carried out for the paper in October when the government called the referendum.

Opposing change in the law, the Church argues the government should do more to help women to have children instead of easing abortion restrictions while Braganca Bishop Antonio Moreira Montes likened abortion to the execution of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

"Everyone was horrified by Saddam's execution. Abortion is a variation of capital punishment," he said.

Campaigning begins in Portugal for referendum on abortion (France 24, 31/1/07)
Portugal abortion law put to test (BBC News, 29/1/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Life Office, Sydney Archdiocese

Priest requests prayers for abortion practitioners (CathNews, 10/7/06)
Argentine Catholic University in bid to save unborn child (CathNews, 2/8/06)

1 Feb 2007