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Last Updated: Monday, 29 January 2007, 11:36 GMT
Portugal abortion law put to test
Anti-abortion activists in Lisbon, 28 Jan 07
There is strong opposition to the new proposals
Official campaigning is beginning in Portugal ahead of a referendum on easing its strict abortion law.

At least 9,000 anti-abortion protesters marched through Lisbon on Sunday urging people to reject the proposal.

On 11 February voters will decide whether to allow abortions for all women up to the 10th week of pregnancy.

The "No" camp has the powerful Roman Catholic Church on its side. Recent opinion polls suggest support for lifting the abortion ban has declined.

Abortions are only legal in Portugal within 12 weeks of pregnancy to save a woman's life or to preserve her mental or physical health.

Europe map

In cases of rape, abortions are allowed within 16 weeks. The limit is 24 weeks if there is a risk that the child will be born with an incurable disease or deformity.

More than 50% of registered voters must cast their ballots for the referendum to be valid.

A referendum on the issue was ruled invalid in 1998 because of a low turnout.

Portugal's Socialist Prime Minister, Jose Socrates, called the new referendum in October.

A poll published on Friday in the daily Jornal de Noticias found that about 38% of likely voters would support the new abortion law proposals - down from the 53% registered in a poll in October.

Earlier this month, the Bishop of Braganca, Antonio Moreira Montes, likened abortion to the execution of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

"Everyone was horrified by Saddam's execution. Abortion is a variation of capital punishment," he said.

Country profile: Portugal
09 Jan 07 |  Country profiles
Portuguese abortion vote denied
29 Oct 05 |  Europe

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