Portugal’s law to legalize abortion within the first ten weeks of pregnancy went into effect on Sunday. The law was a result of a February referendum and an April parliamentary vote in which the country opted overwhelmingly to lift the abortion ban, which was one of the most restrictive in Europe. Although the law was passed in April, it had to be published in government records before it could take effect.
Women who choose to abort will be required to go to a medical appointment in order to ensure that they are properly informed about the procedure. Then, they must wait a mandated three days before undergoing an abortion.
This new law will likely prevent dangerous illegal abortions, which kill and seriously injure some 10,000 Portuguese women each year, CNN reported in April. Still, at least nine regional hospitals in Portugal will not offer abortions because of doctors’ refusals to perform the procedure.
Portugal’s restrictive abortion laws have been under debate ever since Women on Waves, a non-profit organization that prevents unwanted pregnancies and unsafe abortions by providing essential services to women on international waters, traveled by ship to Portugal in 2004 to raise awareness about reproductive rights. When Women on Waves traveled to Portugal in 2004, the ship was blocked from the country by the Portuguese Navy. The Feminist Majority Foundation has worked with Women on Waves since its first trip to Ireland six years ago, providing security support through its National Clinic Access Project. During the ship’s trip to Portugal, the Feminist Majority Foundation had senior staff on the boat, training staff and volunteers to guard against potential violence or disruptions.