Portuguese Parliament to Vote on Abortion Referendum
The Portuguese Parliament is set to vote on whether to hold a referendum that would let voters decide whether to legalize abortion. [UPDATE: On Thursday, October 19, the Portugese Parliament approved holding the referendum. The vote is expected to happen early next year.] Portugal is the only country in the European Union that actively prosecutes women and their doctors for illegal abortion, incarcerating women for up to three years if found guilty of having an illegal abortion and doctors for up to eight years for performing the abortions.
Portugal last had a referendum to legalize abortion in 1998, which lost 51 to 49 percent. Recent polls show 47 percent of Portugal is in favor of decriminalizing abortion, with 40 percent against, EuroNews reports. This shift in attitude has been attributed to recent high-profile prosecutions of women and doctors for obtaining or performing abortions, according to EuroNews. Currently, a Portuguese woman can only receive an abortion up to her 12th week of pregnancy in cases of rape, a malformed fetus, or if the woman’s health is in serious danger.
To raise awareness about Portugal's restrictive abortion laws, Women on Waves, a non-profit organization based in the Netherlands whose mission is to prevent unwanted pregnancy and unsafe abortions throughout the world, traveled to Portugal in 2004, only to be block by the Portuguese Navy. The Feminist Majority Foundation has been working with Women on Waves since its first trip to Ireland five years ago, providing security support through its National Clinic Access Project.
According to Women on Waves, between 20,000 and 40,000 illegal and unsafe abortions take place in Portugal each year. Said Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates about the referendum, "We have to end this blight of backstreet abortions… It makes Portugal a backward country," according to the Associated Press. If the legislators vote to allow the referendum, Portugal will vote on the measure in January.
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .