"This Sunday, Portuguese voters have a chance to strike down one of Europe's harshest abortion laws at a referendum on a proposal for abortion on demand during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy. The outcome is difficult to predict in a country where more than 90% of people still declare themselves to be Catholic but only a third are regular churchgoers."
Polls show a majority in favour of changing the law, but the younger people who want change are the least likely to vote. A vote in favour of abortion would mark a seismic change in Portuguese society, showing that the church has lost its centuries-old hold on the nation's soul. It would also see Portugal abandon the club of European nations, which includes Ireland, Poland and Malta, for whom abortion is not just a sin but usually a punishable crime.
"Poverty, ignorance, illiteracy and an absence of family planning clinics make the women of Campanha easy pickings for the parteiras . "
ainda as palavras de José Socrates:
"The campaign to change the current law, which permits abortion only in cases of rape, foetal malformation or if a mother's health is at serious risk, is being led by the Socialist prime minister, Jose Socrates. "We have to end this blight of backstreet abortions," he said when announcing the referendum. "It makes Portugal a backward place."
Isto não sabia!
This Sunday, Portuguese bishops are expected to gather at the shrine in Fatima where the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared to three shepherd children in 1917. In this, the holiest place in Portugal, the information desk was this week handing out campaign leaflets asking people to vote against the new law.
Opinion polls, while giving a lead to the yes vote, show that many voters remain undecided. The final result will depend on how many of Portugal's 8.7 million voters go to the polls, with a low turnout favouring the no vote. If fewer than 50% vote, then the result is not binding on Mr Socrates' government.