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Associated Press, June 21, 2007

Portugal Adopts Law Allowing Abortion

LISBON, Portugal (AP) -- Portugal introduced a new law Thursday that allows abortion up to the 10th week of pregnancy, but imposes a three-day reflection period for women seeking the procedure and grants doctors the right to opt out on moral grounds.

The law was published in official government records and takes effect July 15.

Parliament voted overwhelmingly in March to scrap previous tight restrictions on abortion, bringing Portugal more in line with most of its European neighbors. The Health Ministry has spent months drawing up medical guidelines annexed to the law.

Under the law, women seeking an abortion will meet first with doctors who are to warn them of possible dangers. After a three-day reflection period, women can obtain an abortion free at a public hospital or go to a licensed private clinic.

Within two weeks of the procedure women must attend a family planning session where they will be informed about contraception methods.

Doctors can refuse to carry out abortions. The law stipulates that if no doctor is available to perform an abortion at a woman's local hospital she must be given access to a doctor elsewhere.

The old law allowed the procedure in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy only if a mother's health was at risk. In cases of rape, it was permitted through the 16th week. Only if abortion was the only way to save a woman's life was there no time restriction.

The center-left Socialist government hopes the new law will end dangerous backstreet abortions. Women's rights groups say about 10,000 women in the mostly Roman Catholic country are hospitalized every year with complications arising from botched, illegal abortions.

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