Abortion laws in Portugal were liberalized on April 10, 2007, allowing the procedure to be done on-demand if a woman's pregnancy has not exceeded its tenth week. There is a three-day waiting period for abortions. President Aníbal Cavaco Silva has ratified the new law allowing abortion, recommending nevertheless that measures should be taken to ensure abortion is the last resort. Despite the liberalization of the laws, in practice, many doctors refuse to perform abortions (which they are allowed to do under a conscientious objection clause) as Portugal remains a country where the Catholic tradition has a significant influence. Abortions at later stages are allowed for specific reasons, such as risk to woman's health reasons, rape and other sexual crimes, or fetal malformation; with restrictions increasing gradually at 12, 16 and 24 weeks. The law was signed into law after a February 2007 referendum approved of liberalizing the abortion laws.
Before April 2007, abortion was regulated by Law 6/84 and Law 90/97, and was strongly restricted, allowed only for health reasons, rape and sexual crimes, and fetal malformation. Although during that period the abortion laws in Portugal were relatively similar to those of neighboring Spain, in practice, the law was given a much stricter interpretation in Portugal than in Spain, and obtaining a legal abortion was quite difficult. A previous referendum in June 1998 failed to liberalize the abortion law by a slim margin.
As of 2010[update], the abortion rate was 9.0 abortions per 1000 women aged 15–44 years.