New Abortion Referendum in Portugal
In Portugal, where some 20,000 illegal abortions take place each year, and a further 2,000 travel to Spain for the procedure, the Government has announced that there will be a referendum held in Portugal on February 11th next year to allow for legal, voluntary abortions within the first 10 weeks of pregnancy. A similar referendum was rejected in 1998.
In past years, the Catholic heirarchy has been outspoken on social issues, especially abortion, and initially announced a change of tack for the forthcoming referendum when it was announced in October. When asked what advice he would give to undecided voters in the abortion referendum, Cardinal Jose de Cruz Policarpo, the patriarch of Lisbon, responded, 'I think that, if I had doubts about such a crucial problem, I, in their place, would abstain'. He recanted the next day, following widespread criticism from conservatives, and called for a 'no' vote.