Two Portuguese women were acquitted Monday of illegally terminating their pregnancies, in a case that dates back to 1999. The exoneration resulted from the prosecution’s lack of evidence against the women, following the judge’s dismissal of police wiretap evidence, reported Agence France Presse (AFP).
The two women were arrested and charged after paying a nurse $480 each to perform the abortions in her residence, according to the Kaiser Daily Reproductive Health Report. The nurse is being tried separately, and could face up to eight years in prison.
Abortion is illegal in Portugal, with few exceptions, including endangerment of the mother’s life and other specified conditions. Portuguese abortion laws are among the most prohibitive in Europe. Between 20,000 to 40,000 clandestine abortions are performed annually in Portugal, and over 1,000 women were hospitalized in 2003 as a result of complications from back-alley abortions.
A poll conducted late last year by the daily newspaper Diario de Noticias and TSF radio showed that three in five people in Portugal believe that the government should decriminalize abortion.