Portugal Fails to Overturn Abortion Law Due to Low Turnout

By Christine Cupaiuolo — February 12, 2007

An interesting turn of events in Portugal on Sunday, where voters failed to overturn that country’s strict abortion law because of low turnout. Associated Press writer Barry Hatton reports (via the Washington Post):

With nearly all the votes counted, almost 60 percent of voters approved the referendum allowing women to opt for abortions up to the 10th week of pregnancy, while slightly more than 40 percent opposed it.

However, under Portuguese law more than 50 percent of the country’s 8.9 million registered voters must participate in a referendum to make the ballot valid. The turnout Sunday was 44 percent.

Prime Minister Jose Socrates, leader of the center-left Socialist Party, said he was undeterred by the failure of the referendum and would stick to his pre-ballot pledge to change the law through parliament.

Socrates has said that he would introduce a bill to legalize abortion up to the 10th week of pregnancy. The voting results, he said, “reinforced the political and legislative legitimacy” of that plan. Still, as the AP points out, the limits are much broader in most other EU nations. It is permissible up to the 12th week in Germany, France and Italy and up to the 24th week in Britain.

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