A Portuguese Court of Appeals charged a doctor and his assistant on Tuesday with providing illegal abortions. Three women were also charged with obtaining illegal abortions. Abortion is illegal in Portugal, with few exceptions, including endangerment of the mother’s life and other specified conditions.
Tuesday’s ruling is a reversal of a 2004 ruling where the doctor, assistant, three women, and twelve others were acquitted of the charges based on lack of evidence. The five convicted on Tuesday were found guilty on evidence from gynecological exams that was not admitted in the 2004 trial. The doctor was sentenced to three years and eight months in prison, his assistant was sentenced to 16 months, and the three women received sentences of six months each, according to Today Online.
The Dutch organization Women on Waves traveled to Portugal in 2004 to bring attention to the nation’s punitive abortion policies. Though the Women on Waves boat was never allowed to enter Portuguese waters Ð in fact, it was blocked by Portugal’s Navy Ð the trip succeeded renewing the debate in Portugal about the country’s restrictive abortion policies. A poll conducted shortly after the trip found that three in five voters in Portugal wanted to liberalize Portugal’s abortion laws and nearly 77 percent wanted to hold a new referendum on abortion. The Feminist Majority Foundation traveled with Women on Waves to Portugal to provide security assistance.
Between 20,000 to 40,000 illegal abortions are performed annually in Portugal, and over 1,000 women were hospitalized in 2003 as a result of complications from back-alley abortions.