Different strategies to legalize abortion: Successes and lessons from Portugal
Duarte Vilar (Portugal)
A short history of the politics on abortion in Portugal before 2007 will be presented, stressing the importance of the political instance in producing and maintaining restrictive laws and in denying access to legal abortion services, and explaining the main reasons and actors that were involved in this process.
Some of the main moral and political debates occurred in the context of the 2007 Referendum will be presented.
The new legislation issued from the referendum process and the pro choice victory in 2007 will be presented an analysed on its limits and also in its positive and innovative aspects.
An overview on 15 months of legal abortion in Portugal will be done, presenting the gains on women’s health and also the main current constrains to the right to legal abortion.
Duarte Vilar, Sociologist, APF Executive Director, Portugal
Co-author: Elisabete Souto, Psychologist, Help Line Opções Coordinator
In July 2007, following the pro choice victory in the Referendum of February 2007, the majority of the Portuguese Public hospitals, 3 health centers and 3 private clinics started to provide safe abortion cares.
This enormous change effectively provided an easy access of Portuguese women to safe and legal abortion cares. In 2009 19572 legal abortions were performed.
The new situation also implicated a change in the role of APF (the main NGO of S&RH&R in Portugal) taking into consideration our profile – we don’t provide clinical services and we work mainly on information, education training and advocacy. Since 2007, we have developed a large training program to service providers and we still are the main providers of training on abortion in the country.
At the same time, we have used our Helpline OPÇÕES as an observation post on the implementation of the law, and the quality of services. In fact, more than 1000 women contacted the help line and it was possible to use their testimonies to better understand eventual problems and barriers in the provision of legal abortion cares, all over the country. This continuous information flow permitted updated information and the identification of new issues to be worked along the training activities.
Another strategy is the dissemination and debate of research results with service providers. In this field,
APF produced a first qualitative research based on the women testimonies collected through OPÇÕES helpline and a quantitative and qualitative research on abortion recidivism will be presented in the beginning of 2011.
Also we have to say that APF, as an NGO always was and continues to be a network of service providers that use the NGO as a free space of discussion of their practices and problems.
Finally, APF produced a set of educational materials that have been provided to the NHS and, thus, to service providers, as a tool to be used with the women that attend the abortion services.