The controversial proposal was pushed through the Chamber of Deputies by the ruling Socialist Party joined by the small Communist Party. The law will allow abortions to be carried out in public hospitals during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy after the mother attends a session at a national counseling center. Portugese law previously permitted abortion only when the mother's physical or psychological health were at serious risk or in cases of rape, and then only in the first three months. In subsequent months, an abortion could only be performed when the mother's life is in danger.
The bill, which passed by 116 votes to 107, now goes to the committee stage where it will be voted on clause by clause, but only minor changes can be adopted. Prior to the new law, there were only 280 abortions in the country, although pro-abortion supporters claim that thousands of illegal abortions were being performed.