The President of Portugal issued a pardon for a nurse who has been in jail since February 2000 for performing abortions. According to Agence France Presse, Mario do Ceu Riberio was one of 42 women put on trial last year for having abortions or for running abortion networks, and the only one to be sentenced to prison.
Last week, seven Portuguese women were put on trial for having illegal abortions. Public prosecutors have also charged the doctor for performing the abortions and nine other people as accomplices, including one of the parents of a woman who had an abortion. According to Agence France Presse, advocates for abortion law reform argue that the Portugal’s laws are outdated and force poor women to have unsafe and illegal abortions in “backstreet” clinics. Several women’s groups have launched a petition demanding a new referendum that would allow abortion on demand in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy.
The International Planned Parenthood Federation estimates that up to 20,000 illegal abortions are carried out annually in Portugal. Portugal’s highly restrictive abortion laws are heavily influenced by the Catholic Church.