Portuguese Women Acquitted In Abortion Case

Seventeen people, including seven women who were accused of undergoing illegal abortions in Portugal, were acquitted yesterday of breaking Portugal’s strict abortion laws. According to BBC News, the seven women were accused of voluntarily having abortions at a street clinic in Averio, Portugal. A three-judge panel found no proof that the accused women had undergone the abortions. If the women were found guilty they could have been sentenced to up to three years in jail.

The high-profile trial of these women has led to calls to change Portugal’s highly restrictive laws, which are heavily influenced by the Catholic Church. Earlier this year, Portuguese abortion rights activists collected over 120,000 signatures to force Parliament to consider a decriminalization referendum that would make abortion legal during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy. However, the Prime Minister of Portugal stated that he would only consider holding a referendum if he were elected to a second five-year term, reports Reuters.

According to Reuters, a recent poll conducted by Diario de Noticias/TSF stated that sixty-five percent of Portuguese are in favor of decriminalizing abortion. Portugal and Ireland are the two countries in the European Union with the most restrictive abortion policies. Abortion is illegal in both except in cases involving rape or when there are serious health concerns.

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Reuters 2/17/04; BBC News 2/17/04; Feminist News Wire 1/29/04

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