The Portuguese government on Monday began a campaign for a yes vote in a referendum to allow women to have a voluntary abortion during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy.
Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates began the campaign during his closing speech at the Women's Sexual and Reproductive Health Conference, which was organized by the Socialist deputies of the European Parliament.
"What is at stake here is that women who wish to abort should be free to do so up to 10 weeks of pregnancy without being persecuted or prosecuted," Socrates said, adding, "The Socialist Party does not impose its will. Every person should be free and I support the yes campaign."
The law sought by the party would do away with clandestine abortions and make Portugal one of Europe's most modern countries when it came to this issue, he said.
Also at the conference, Correia de Campos, the country's health minister, said the new law must win the broad support of Portuguese society -- especially women and health professionals -- if it is to put an end to legal discrimination and illegal abortions.
Three to five Portuguese women seek an illegal abortion every day, according to data published by the Health Ministry, and around 2,000 cross into Spain for the procedure.