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Doctor Protests may Hinder Portugal's New Abortion Law

A large number of doctors in Portugal were refusing to carry out a law that took effect Sunday permitting abortions up to the 10th week of pregnancy .

The law allows doctors to be "conscientious objectors" and press reports indicated at least nine public hospitals out of a total of 50 could not guarantee the procedure.

Portugal's parliament approved the law in March after a February referendum found 59-percent support for change.

The overwhelmingly Roman Catholic country previously had among the most restrictive laws in Europe, only allowing terminations if a woman had been raped, if her health was in danger or if the foetus was malformed.

Catholic Church officials in the country have called for continued respect for doctors who refuse to perform abortions and contend that abortion is a serious sin.

According to a study published by Portugal's association for family planning, 18,000 Portuguese aborted illegally in 2005.


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