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Abortion Vote in Portugal. Interview With Director of Family Action
LISBON, Portugal, FEB. 11, 2007 (Zenit.org).- It is a duty for Portuguese Catholics to vote "no" in the country's referendum on abortion, says the director of a Lisbon-based association that defends and promotes Christian values.

José Carlos Sepúlveda da Fonseca, who also helped to found Family Action in 2000, explains in this interview with ZENIT the situation in Portugal with regards to the legalization of abortion.

The country was voting today on a national referendum to scrap Portugal's abortion law and to allow abortion up to the 10th week of pregnancy.

Q: What lines of argument have led to the referendum on the liberalization of abortion in Portugal?

Sepúlveda da Fonseca: The Socialist Party, with an absolute majority in Parliament, has had the legalization of abortion on its political agenda.

In writing the question for the referendum, the party formulated it in such a way that if the "yes" were to win, what would be approved in practice in Portugal would be totally free abortion up to the 10th week. The abortion would be the sole and exclusive choice of the woman, and could be performed in state hospitals and health structures, or with state credentials and financed by the National Health System.

The government and other supporters of the "yes" vote state that the "social plague" of clandestine abortion -- on which they present discordant and unfounded data -- imposes the approval of this regime of free abortion for the solution of a public health problem.

In addition to this, it maintains that the law, by penalizing abortion, "humiliates" women, and that the decision to abort is a question of, "inner judgment." They also state that Portugal is "retrograde" in its legislation by not aligning itself with the legal mechanisms of the practice of abortion, more or less free, of almost the whole of Europe.

Q: In what way is the association you direct opposing abortion?

Sepúlveda da Fonseca: The many movements that fight against the liberalization of abortion in Portugal have presented excellent ethical, juridical and scientific arguments.

With these they have demonstrated that the liberalization of abortion is an aberration, and it leaves the life of the unborn absolutely deprived of protection from the legal point of view; a life that the most modern discoveries and medical and scientific techniques attest to as unmistakable in the embryo.

As Portugal is a mainly Catholic country, the association I head -- Family Action -- thought it was appropriate to add another line of action to the efforts of these many anti-abortion organizations and movements. We remind Catholic faithful of their duty of conscience not to abstain from voting, and to vote "no" once the referendum is convoked.

That is why we have distributed 2.7 million leaflets throughout continental Portugal, the Azores and Madeira.

As lay Catholics, we have reminded others briefly of the Church's doctrine on the topic of abortion.

Given that the referendum coincides with the 90th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima, we have also invited Catholics to take part in a chain of prayer so that the Virgin will preserve Portugal from this calamity, inviting them to pray the rosary.

Q: What forces are at play? Who is in favor of abortion and who is opposed?

Sepúlveda da Fonseca: The forces that promote the liberalization of abortion are unmistakably the political forces of the left: the Socialist Party as a bloc -- with rare exceptions -- the Portuguese Communist Party and the left bloc. In addition to these are some movements of civil society, more or less close to these political blocs.

A great number of movements of civil society are opposed to abortion -- the so-called civic movements -- outstanding among which is the No, Thank You platform, which come from several regions of the national territory.

These movements have shown great vitality and an enormous capacity of mobilization which has been translated into the holding of a large pro-life march in Lisbon.

Linked to these movements are important names of several professional sectors: jurists, doctors, scientists, economists, university professors, sociologists, journalists, etc. In the political field, opposed in a clear and unmistakable way to the liberalization of abortion is the Democrat Social Party-Popular Party, of Christian Democratic inspiration.

In the Catholic realm, several bishops and priests are making their voice heard. Notable among them is Archbishop Jorge Ortiga of Braga, president of the bishops' conference of Portugal; Bishop Manuel Felício of Guarda; and Bishop António Marto of Leiria-Fatima.

Among the Catholic laity, several groups have committed themselves actively in the fight against the liberalization of abortion.

Q: What can pro-life associations around the world do to support you in this struggle?

Sepúlveda da Fonseca: I believe the first contribution of Catholic organizations and pro-life associations is to make known abroad the duplicity with which the government of the Socialist Party, led by José Sócrates, the Portuguese Communist Party, the extremist Left Bloc and the abortion movements have acted.

They have sought to confuse those who are undecided in Portugal, concealing in every way their real intentions and eluding what is really at stake in this referendum: the introduction of free abortion up to the 10th week.

The "swindles" of the defenders of the liberalization of abortion have been so grave and important that in recent days an article of the newspaper Publico spoke of the democratic illegitimacy of an eventual victory of the "yes" vote.

In addition to this, pro-life associations will be able to make an enormous contribution by joining the great prayer network that is spreading in Portugal and in several countries, imploring Our Lady of Fatima to preserve Portugal from the evil of abortion.