Portugal's parliament voted overwhelmingly to liberalize the country's abortion laws on Thursday. Currently, a woman can obtain an abortion in the first 12 weeks if her health is at risk, in the first 16 weeks if the pregnancy is a result of rape, and at any time during the pregnancy to save a woman's life. The new law will allow all abortions until the 10th week of pregnancy and includes a mandatory three-day "reflection period" before a woman can undergo the procedure.
The legislation comes after a February referendum that failed because only 44 percent of eligible voters cast a ballot, missing the required 50 percent participation that is required to render a referendum binding. Of those who did vote, nearly 60 percent supported the move to liberalize the country's abortion laws.
Advocates of abortion rights hope that the bill will curb the number of back-alley abortions that occur in Portugal; women's rights groups estimate that some 10,000 women are hospitalized for complications after botched, illegal abortions, the Associated Press reports. "Some battles are worth a lifetime," Socialist Prime Minister Jose Socrates, who supports the bill, told the Associated Press. "There was nothing more undignified for women than backstreet abortions."
The bill must be signed by the president within 20 days in order to become law.
Media Resources: AP 3/10/07, 3/9/07; Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report 3/12/07; Reuters 3/9/07