Portugal Law Loosens Abortion Restrictions Comes Into Effect

Armen Hareyan's picture

A Portuguese law that legalizes abortions during the first 10 weeks ofpregnancy went into effect on Sunday, but local press reports indicatedat least nine of 50 public hospitals in the country could not guaranteeaccess to the procedure, AFP/Yahoo! News reports (AFP/Yahoo! News, 7/15).

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Beforethe law took affect, abortion was illegal in Portugal except whennecessary to protect the life or health of a woman or if a womanbecomes pregnant as a result of rape. The Portuguese Parliament inMarch passed the legislation allowing abortions during the first 10weeks. The measure allows physicians to register as conscientiousobjectors and refuse to perform abortions, but the law stipulates thatif no doctor is available, women must be given access to a physician ata different hospital.

It also requires a three-day "reflectionperiod" before a woman can choose to receive the procedure. The measurestates that abortions will be initiated by a prescription drugadministered by a physician; however, if the drug is not available,doctors are to perform a surgical procedure. Women who undergoabortions are granted confidentiality but will have to attend a sessionthat informs them about contraceptive methods and family planning (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 6/25).

According to Reuters, the government hopes the new law will curb the estimated 23,000 clandestine abortions that occur annually in Portugal (Reuters, 7/15).

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