Seventeen Portugese women accused of having illegal abortions and twenty-six others accused of aiding the illegal abortions have gone to trial and are now facing jail sentences of up to three years. Pro-choice supporters in Portugal, a country heavily influenced by the Roman Catholic Church, have criticized the proceedings claiming that the law encouraged the women to seek out illegal avenues to obtaining abortion services. Under Portugese law, abortion is legal only in the first trimester and only in cases of rape, fetal malformation, or to save the life of the woman. Abortions can only be performed in government-approved clinics. These restrictions on abortion access, according to healthcare workers, make botched abortion the leading cause of maternal mortality in Portugal. In 1998, abortion-rights activists estimated that hospitals in Portugal saw roughly 10,000 women a year suffering from complications from illegal abortions.
Media Resources: The Independent, 10/20/01; Center for Reproductive Law and Policy