Abortion law in Portugal came to attention in 1984. Prior to this, abortion was illegal in the country, but from 1984 abortion options began to be introduced and, in 1997, expanded to include further eligible cases. Finally, with the permission of the voluntary interruption of pregnancy until 10 weeks in 2007, abortion procedures can be made at the request of the woman.
It has now been 15 years since voluntary abortion, up to the 10th week of pregnancy, was made legal in Portugal, as long as the procedure is performed in official or officially accredited health services in the country.
In this article, we’ll provide you with everything that you should know on the topic of the Portugal abortion laws 2022.
Abortion law in Portugal: An introduction
Is abortion legal in Portugal?
Yes, in Portugal, abortion is legal and can be performed on-demand during the first ten weeks of pregnancy. According to the Portugal abortion laws, a three-day reflection period is mandatory before the procedure. The law was ratified by President Aníbal Cavaco Silva, who recommended that measures should be taken to ensure abortion is the last resort. After this period, abortion is only allowed under specific circumstances, such as risk to the woman’s life or health, fetal malformation, or in cases of rape. The restrictions increase gradually at 12, 16, and 24 weeks.
Abortion law in Portugal: a brief history
In this part of our article, we’ll provide you with a brief history of the abortion law in Portugal.
Abortion procedures were illegal in the country until 1984. However, over the years, the legislation has incorporated different grounds for legal abortions in Portugal (see table below).
Initially, in 1984, the Assembly of the Republic ruled to allow legal abortions in the following situations: serious maternal and fetal disease, cases of rape, and, in a broader sense, crimes against sexual self-determination.
14 years later, a national referendum was held in 1998 to consider the question of the decriminalization of the voluntary termination of a pregnancy. While the result was one of fine margins (50.9% against and 49.1% in favor), abstention exceeded 50%, whereby only 31.9% of the country’s registered voters participated in the referendum. Therefore, the referendum result was non-binding.
In 2007, a second referendum was held on the same topic, and the pro-choice movement won with 59.3% of the votes, with 43.6% of the electorate participating this time around. From the result, voluntary abortion was legalized when performed up until the 10th gestational week in official health services. Portugal abortion laws, therefore, changed to expand the scope where it is possible for women to have access to abortion procedures.
The number of abortion procedures carried out before the expansion of the abortion law in Portugal increased after 2007 but has been declining steadily since 2011.
A legal frame well defined for the voluntary interruption of pregnancy in Portugal
As mentioned, the abortion law in Portugal expanded its scope in 2007 under Act No. 16/2007. Under this act, abortion can be practiced in official or officially recognized health facilities, in the following situations:
Ground for abortion
To save a woman's life
24 months from LMP
Cases of rape
16 months from LMP
12 months from LMP
On request of the woman
10 months from LMP
To save a woman’s life: This is the only way to eliminate the danger of death or serious and irreversible injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman.
Foetal impairment: There are safety reasons to provide that the unborn child may suffer from congenital malformation or an incurable form of a serious illness, and is carried out in the first 24 weeks of the pregnancy, with the exception of non-viable fetal situations, where the interruption may be practiced at any time.
Cases of rape: The pregnancy is the result of a crime against liberty and sexual self-determination and is interrupted for the first 16 weeks of the pregnancy.
Maternal disease: To avoid the danger of death or serious and lasting injury to the body or the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman and that the procedure is carried out during the first 12 weeks of the pregnancy
Woman’s request: during the first ten weeks of the pregnancy.
Under the abortion law in Portugal, you will need the following:
- Written consent from the woman
- A pre-abortion consultation, pre-abortion laboratory test, and a post-abortion consultation
- A mandatory three-day period (reflection period) between the pre-abortion consultation and the abortion procedure
- Contraception evoked during one of the three medical consultations
Note that minors (under the age of 16) will need a parent or guardian’s consent.
How to practice a voluntary interruption of pregnancy in Portugal?
Portugal abortion laws have stated that the termination of pregnancy can be carried out at the request of the woman, since 2007. The procedures can take place in public hospitals as well as in private clinics that are officially recognized and registered by the correct authorities. There are also some Centro de Saúde (health centers) that can perform the procedure, although this is less common.
Most abortions are performed in the National Health Service, the Serviço Nacional de Saúde (SNS). Medical abortion is the most common form of terminating the pregnancy and is currently practiced in around 70% of cases.
Every woman that is a resident in Portugal will have access to a public referral hospital, where she will be able to have an abortion. The first step is to determine which is the closest hospital to your residence. Foreign women that reside in Portugal also have access to free abortion care.
For more information concerning this, you can call the following numbers, where you will be able to speak with someone who can guide you to the closest abortion service.
Health center: Linha Saúde 24 (808242424)
Sexualidade em Linha da APF/IPDJ (800222003)
Abortion law in Portugal: Steps to having an abortion in Portugal
As of 2007, abortion laws in Portugal made it much easier for women to have an abortion. In this part of our article, we’ll briefly run over the three steps to carrying out the procedure. First, you will need to have a pre-abortion consultation, followed by the abortion procedure, and then a check-up two or three weeks after the abortion has taken place.
Step 1: Pre-abortion consultation
The first step is the so-called pre-abortion consultation. Pregnancy termination visits are only legal when it has been confirmed by a “non-conscientious objector” professional. If, for whatever reason, the health professional does not agree with the termination of the pregnancy, then he or she will need to let the woman know and provide her with the contact details of another professional that she will then be able to get in touch with.
To begin the process, the woman will need to call the hospital or health center that is closest to her home address and request an interrupção voluntária da gravidez (voluntary abortion consultation). Some hospitals allow for the woman to make an appointment without having to go through the health center, while in other circumstances, it will be required to have prior consultation at the health center.
The time between the appointment and the consultation before the abortion is carried out cannot exceed five days. It is a mandatory consultation, where the health professional will need to clarify any doubts that the woman has and provide her with the relevant information so that she can make an informed and responsible decision. This information is free.
During the initial consultation, the time of the pregnancy (by ultrasound) is determined and the various methods for the termination of the pregnancy are discussed and explained. The woman will be able to choose the method that she intends to take after the different options open to her have been laid out. The physician will also evaluate the clinically most appropriate method for her situation.
The woman will be given a free and informed consent form, which she will need to read, sign, and deliver before the date the abortion procedure is to be carried out. If the woman is under the age of 16 or is psychologically unfit, then this can be signed by their legal representative (parent or guardian).
At the end of the pre-abortion consultation, the second consultation is then scheduled for the date of the abortion.
Step 2: Abortion procedure
Between the pre-consultation and the date of the abortion, the abortion law in Portugal states that a minimum reflection period of three days is required. During these days, the woman can ask for psychological support and counseling, and the number of days can be extended if the woman so desires.
The abortion procedure is then carried out, either surgical or medicinal. Medicinal abortion procedures are the most common in Portugal, accounting for around 70% of cases.
Medical termination: Here you will have a consultation for the first taking of drugs, the second administration can be done at home or at the health service. Finally, there will be a consultation approximately two weeks after this to make sure everything was fine with the procedure.
Surgical termination: For the surgical route, the stay in the health unit can take one morning or afternoon, taking into account the preoperative preparation and procedures, although the procedure itself will only last a few minutes.
On the day of the abortion, the third appointment, also referred to as the follow-up appointment or control appointment, is scheduled.
Step 3: Post-abortion consultation
After two or three weeks after the abortion, you will have a third medical examination. This ensures that everything has gone well for the woman, both physically and psychologically.
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Frequently asked questions about the abortion law in Portugal:
Is abortion legal in Portugal?
Yes, as of 2007, abortion is legal in Portugal up to the 10th week of pregnancy, as long as the procedure is performed in official – or officially accredited – health services in the country.
Abortions at later stages are allowed for specific reasons. These include risk to a woman’s health reasons, rape, and other sexual crimes, or fetal malformation. Restrictions increase gradually at 12, 16, and 24 weeks.
How much does an abortion cost in Portugal?
Portuguese residents in the country have the legal right to an abortion paid for by the state, up to ten weeks into the pregnancy. This was approved by a referendum regarding abortion law in Portugal in 2007.
What are the Portugal abortion laws?
Abortion laws in Portugal were liberalized on April 10, 2007. They allow elective abortion to be performed if a woman’s pregnancy has not exceeded its tenth week. There is a three-day waiting period for abortions.