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Portugal: Euthanasia bill rejected as unconstitutional

The Constitutional Court in Portugal has rejected as unconstitutional a euthanasia bill approved by its parliament in January.

The law, passed in January this year, required the approval of the President to enter into force. The President asked the Constitutional Court to review the legislation and, on Monday 15th March, the judges at the Court rejected the legislation as unconstitutional.

In a 7:5 ruling, the judges effectively agreed with President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa’s assessment that the legislation contained “excessively undefined concepts.” The judges declared that the rules on when euthanasia can take place must be “clear, precise, clearly envisioned and controllable.” The euthanasia legislation lacked “the necessary rigour” and failed to meet these requirements.

The Bill was initially approved in the Portuguese Parliament in January this year, and permitted people over the age of 18 to request euthanasia if they were terminally ill and suffering from “lasting” and “unbearable” pain. The law did not apply to those who were deemed to be mentally unfit to make such a decision.

Judge Pedro Machete told a news conference the law was unconstitutional because some of the clauses posed a threat to the principle of “inviolability of life”.

The legislation now returns to the Portuguese Parliament for subsequent review.

Expanding euthanasia law

Other European countries that have legalised euthanasia have seen a steady expanding of the practice. Belgium legalised euthanasia in 2002, and since then the practise has even been extended to children. The current law allows euthanasia if the patient is in a state of constant physical or psychological pain.

There is now a renewed push in Belgium for euthanasia to be available for those who are healthy but have decided they have lived a “fulfilled life”.

In 2018 there were a total of 2,357 reported assisted suicides in Belgium, up from 2,309 in the previous year. Between 2010 and 2018 there has been a 247% increase in reported assisted suicides.

Earlier this year, a Dutch doctor escaped prosecution despite having euthanised a patient with dementia against her express wish. The Dutch government has also said it would be changing the regulations to allow doctors to end the lives of terminally ill children between the ages of one and twelve.

Right To Life UK spokesperson, Catherine Robinson, said: “The euthanasia legislation in Portugal, which, thankfully, failed to pass, uses ‘unbearable’ pain as the criteria and partial justification for the practice. This is typical of euthanasia legislation and could eventually lead to its expansion. Why, after all, would we limit euthanasia only to those who are terminally ill and over 18 if they are otherwise in ‘unbearable’ pain? Children and adults can be in ‘unbearable’ pain without being terminally ill. If the justification for euthanasia lies in being in ‘unbearable’ pain then, it seems unfair to limit euthanasia to only those who are terminally ill”.

“This is exactly this kind of reasoning which has led both Belgium and the Netherlands to expand its euthanasia laws since their inception. As a matter of fact, this was very likely to happen but as a matter of principle, this is likely inevitable”.

“Furthermore, the reasoning in favour of euthanasia in the legislation in Portugal can be contrasted with the actual evidence. A recent report from the Oregon Health Authority, for example, showed only slightly more than a quarter of those who died by assisted suicide in Oregon listed “inadequate pain control, or concern about it” as one of their end of life concerns. Far more significantly a full 94.3% of patients were concerned with being “[l]ess able to engage in activities making life enjoyable”. 93.1% were concerned with “losing autonomy” and “loss of dignity” was a concern of 71.8% of patients”.

Help stop abortion up to birth for babies with disabilities including Down's syndrome & club foot

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Dear reader

In 2020, the UK Government imposed an extreme abortion regime on Northern Ireland, which included a provision that legalised abortion right up to birth for disabilties including Down’s syndrome, cleft lip and club foot.

A new Bill has been launched at the Northern Ireland assembly that will remove the current provision that allows abortion for ‘severe fetal impairment’.

It is under these grounds in the regulations that babies with disabilities including Down’s syndrome, cleft lip and club foot can currently be singled out for abortion in Northern Ireland because of their disability and can be aborted right up to birth.

Before the new abortion regime was imposed on Northern Ireland in 2020, disability-selective abortion for conditions such as Down’s syndrome, cleft lip and club foot was not legal and there was a culture of welcoming and supporting people with these disabilities rather than eliminating them.

This is reflected directly in the latest figures (2016) from the Department of Health in Northern Ireland, which show that while there were 52 children born with Down’s syndrome in Northern Ireland, in the same year only 1 child from Northern Ireland with Down’s syndrome was aborted in England and Wales. 

This contrasts with the situation in the rest of the United Kingdom where disability-selective abortion has been legal since 1967.

The latest available figures show that 90% of children diagnosed with Down’s syndrome before birth are aborted in England and Wales.

We are, therefore, asking people like you to take 30 seconds of your time and add your support to the campaign to stop abortion up to birth for disabilities including Down’s syndrome, cleft lip and club foot in Northern Ireland.

If you live in Northern Ireland: 
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