Portugal Riles Catholic Hierarchy By Easing Abortion Law

Riling the Roman Catholic hierarchy, lawmakers in Portugal have passed legislation bolstering reproductive rights.

In early March, Portugal’s parliament adopted a measure legalizing abortion through the 10th week of pregnancy. Prime Minister Jose Socrates, a supporter of reproductive rights, praised the lawmakers’ action. The legislation came after a referendum on loosening restrictions on abortion failed due to low voter turnout, though the majority supported reproductive rights.

"Some battles are worth a lifetime," Socrates said, as reported by Associated Press Online. "There was nothing more undignified for women than backstreet abortions."

The Catholic hierarchy, in a nation overwhelmingly Catholic, had lobbied against the measure and Socrates’ support of it. Harvard International Review reported that Bishop Antonio Moreira Montes was especially vehement, comparing abortion to the hanging of Saddam Hussein.

"Everyone was horrified by Saddam’s execution," Moreira Montes said. "Abortion is a variation of capital punishment."

The Review also noted that other clergy claimed that parishioners who were discovered to have voted in favor of reproductive rights in the referendum would face excommunication.