Portugal: Referendum on the decriminalization of abortion

Source: FSSPX News


On Sunday February 11, 2007, the Portuguese people went to the polls to give their reply to the question: “Are you in agreement with the decriminalization of the voluntary interruption of pregnancy if it takes place at the request of the woman, during the first ten weeks of pregnancy, in a legally authorized health establishment?”

Mgr. Jorge Ferreira da Costa Ortiga, president of the Portuguese Episcopal Conference (CEP) and archbishop of Braga, had firmly recalled the position of the Church at the opening of the Plenary Assembly of the Bishops at Fatima, which took place between November 13 and 16, 2006: “Even if we are reproached for being backward in comparison with other countries, we are positively in favor of life, from its conception until its end.” Mgr. José Policarpo, Cardinal Patriarch of Lisbon, stated on the day of the referendum: “It is the duty of all Portuguese people to vote. It is an obligation.”

The turnout for the referendum was less than 50%, insufficient for the result of the vote to be conclusive. However, 59.3% of those who did vote, voted in favor, which led José Socrates, the Socialist Prime Minister, to declare that Parliament would modify the current law: “The voluntary interruption of pregnancy up to ten weeks carried out at the request of the woman in a legally authorized health establishment will cease to be a crime.” The President of the Republic, Anibal Cavaco Silva, commented: “Let’s allow Parliament to draw inspiration from the good practices which currently exist in Europe.”

José Ribeiro e Castro, the leader of the Centre Social Democrats, stated: “The people have voted no. We continue and will continue to be on the side of life. I am reaffirming, at this moment, on this day, the commitment of our party to the right to life and to health and of the dignity of woman. We will not give up.”

“It is not the fact that the State is drawing up a law which can transform the ‘intrinsic evil’ into a good thing for society,” said Mgr. Jorge Ortiga, because what “may be legal, is not necessarily moral.” “The Church has proposed, on the occasion of this unnecessary referendum, an illumination of consciences, which is manifestly opportune and permanent, which does not finish as with the end of a campaign.” “The result is not decisive and the Church is of the opinion that the question of human life should not be treated with a referendum.” “Life is an inviolable gift, a fundamental right of all human beings; it must be welcomed and promoted in all its magnitude and within a universal context.”

On February 16, the Portuguese Bishops Conference stated in a pastoral letter: “Despite the fact that a majority of voters have not given their opinion, the result in favor of ‘yes’ reveals a cultural change within the Portuguese people which we must face with realism, this is the context in which the Church is called to carry out her mission. (…) This cultural change results particularly: from the globalized mediatization of ways of thinking and trends in public opinion; gaps in education on the meaning of life in the formation of the intelligence and on fundamental questions on the human being; individualism in the use of freedom and in the search for truth which touches the personal conscience and its exercise; relativization of values and principles which rule the lives of people and society.”(…)

“We invite Catholics who have turned away from the revealed Truth and the doctrine of the Church by voting ‘yes’ to look into their heart of hearts, at the demands of fidelity to the Church to which they belong and the fundamental verities of her doctrine. We remind the Catholic faithful that the legalization of abortion does not render it morally legitimate. Every abortion continues to be a grave sin, through disregard for Our Lord’s commandment, Thou shalt not kill. We urge doctors and all in the health profession not to hesitate to resort to the principle of conscientious objection which the law guarantees them.”

Portugal is one of the four last countries of the European Union, together with Poland, Ireland and Malta, where abortion is not allowed or limited to certain cases. Abortion in Portugal is currently legal in cases considered to be extreme: rape, handicap, danger for the mother…