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Last Updated: Monday, 11 July, 2005, 18:15 GMT 19:15 UK
Portugal acquits 'abortion women'
A floating abortion clinic (file photo)
Portugal allows abortion only in exceptional situations
A Portuguese court has acquitted two women accused of having illegal abortions after a year-long trial.

The women were acquitted after the prosecution admitted it did not have enough evidence against the women.

Abortion is illegal in Portugal, a Roman Catholic country, except in cases of rape or serious foetal disability.

In 1998, a referendum on the issue was narrowly defeated. Portugal's parliament has voted to hold another popular vote this year.


Portuguese media reported that news of the two women's acquittal was greeted by applause in the courtroom.

The case against the nurse accused of carrying out the abortions remains pending.

Had they been found guilty, the women could have faced jail terms of up to three years.

Polls show that many in the country are in favour of relaxing the country's strict abortion laws.

Last week, parliament passed laws which create a more flexible voting schedule which correspondents say may pave the way for a referendum.

Strict laws

The 1998 referendum, marked by low voter turnout, was defeated by 51% to 49%.

Abortion has been illegal in Portugal for over 100 years, but the law in its current state goes back to 1984, when abortion was permitted in exceptional circumstances.

Abortions are now outlawed except when the mother's life or health is endangered, when the foetus is malformed or when the pregnancy is the result of rape.

An estimated 20,000 - 40,000 illegal abortions are carried out in the country each year, according to the Family Planning Association.

It estimates that some 700 legal abortions take place annually.

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02 Jun 02 |  Europe
Country profile: Portugal
21 Jan 04 |  Country profiles

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