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Portugal constitutional court blocks referendum on abortion law

[JURIST] Portugal's constitutional court [official website] has blocked a national referendum designed to relax the country's abortion laws. Prime Minister Jose Socrates [official profile, in Portuguese] and the ruling Socialist party had intended to hold the referendum on November 27 to decide whether abortions during the first ten weeks of pregnancy should become legal. Currently, Portugal has one of Europe's strictest laws on the matter, only permitting abortion before the 12th week and under strict circumstances - such as incest or fetal impairment. In May, President Jorge Sampio [official profile, in Portuguese], who supports legalized abortion, rejected a referendum because voter turnout was expected to be too low. The court ruled Friday that allowing the vote before September 2006 would be unconstitutional because the same referendum was rejected in the current legislature. BBC News has more.

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