BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Russian Polish Albanian Greek Czech Ukrainian Serbian Turkish Romanian
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Europe  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
LANGUAGES
EDITIONS
Thursday, 14 February, 2002, 23:23 GMT
Abortion debate in Portugal reopened
The BBC's Tim Sebastian met Jorge Sampaio
The BBC's Tim Sebastian met Jorge Sampaio
The President of Portugal, Jorge Sampaio, has given the strongest indications yet that his country will hold a new referendum on whether to decriminalise abortion.

Speaking in an interview with the BBC's HARDtalk, Mr Sampaio claimed that it was time for changes to be made to Portugal's strict laws on abortion.

"We have to see what is actually happening. We can't disguise this issue, it's being disguised," he said.


I unfortunately have to have in mind other opinions.

Jorge Sampaio
"We'll probably have to have a new referendum on this."

It is currently against the law to have an abortion in Portugal unless a mother's health is considered to be at serious risk.

However, strict laws have pushed abortion underground with about 20,000-40,000 illegal abortions performed every year, compared with just 500 legal operations.

Complex issue

The issue has been politically dormant since 1998, when voters rejected by 51% to 49% a referendum on legalising abortion in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy.

Mr Sampaio, who is known to be in favour of relaxing the abortion laws, said the situation would have to be raised again so that there can be an "evolution of the existing law," but also stressed the complexities of tackling such an issue.

"I unfortunately have to have in mind other opinions," he said.

Drug abuse

The Portuguese president has also come under attack from other European countries following his government's decision to decriminalise some forms of drug use.

Mr Sampaio defended the policy claiming that Portugal was "leading the way in many European countries".

Portuguese protestors campaign against relaxing the abortion laws
Portuguese protestors campaign against relaxing the abortion laws
"We're trying to demonstrate that to attack the drug problems you have to have all sorts of approaches," he said.

"You have to have repression, you have to have preventive attitudes and programmes."

Mr Sampaio went on to say that his nation's attitude to drug abuse had changed.

"I think that the major change in our public opinion - and I think that we are very happy with it - was to demonstrate that you have to deal with drug addicts as a patient and not as a criminal," he said.

Foreign affairs

In the interview, President Sampaio also spoke out about the role the European Union has played in relations with Zimbabwe.

The EU threatened to impose sanctions on Zimbabwe's President, Robert Mugabe, for refusing to let international observers oversee the presidential election in March.

Mr Sampaio said the EU had taken too long to get involved with the crisis.

"I don't think that many European countries have paid enough attention to the situation in Africa at large," he said.

He also called for a more "energised European involvement" to help solve the crisis in the Middle East, believing it is the only way to bring Palestinians and Israelis back to the negotiating table.

"The means to achieve a certain solution have to be found," he said.

You can hear the HARDtalk interview in full at the following times:

BBC News 24 (times shown in GMT)
14 February 0430, repeated 2230

BBC World (times shown in GMT)
14 February 0430, repeated 1130, 1630, 1930, 0030

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Jorge Sampaio
"We'll probably have to have a new referendum on this."
See also:

18 Jan 02 | Europe
29 Jun 98 | Europe
14 Jun 01 | Europe
24 Jan 01 | Americas
22 Jan 01 | Americas
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Europe stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Europe stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes