Health statistics reveal that over 1,000 Portuguese women were hospitalized last year as a result of complications from back-alley abortions. According to Agence France-Presse, between 20,000 to 40,000 clandestine abortions are performed annually in Portugal.
Abortion is strictly prohibited in Portugal except in cases where the mother’s life is in danger, in situations of sexual violence, or if there is a risk of damage to physical or mental health or possible congenital deformity. Despite recent polls that show that the majority of Portuguese citizens want to reform the punitive abortion laws, the right-wing government asserts that no new referendum will be held during its term that ends in 2006.
Earlier this year, the Dutch ship Women on Waves traveled to Portugal to raise awareness about the country’s strict abortion laws, and to provide medical abortions using mifepristone for Portuguese women in international waters off the coast. The small commercial vessel was blocked from entering Portuguese waters by two Navy ships.
The Feminist Majority Foundation has been working with Women on Waves since its first trip to Ireland three years ago, where abortion is illegal except to save a woman’s life. Margie Moore, director of Law Enforcement Operations for the Feminist Majority Foundation, was with Women on Waves in Portugal to provide security assistance.