As many of our readers know, the Portuguese referendum to legalize abortion failed last Sunday due to small voter turnout. Had suppression of voter turnout been a strategy of the pro-life movement (like it was in Italy for the stem cell vote last year) it would have been a logical way to handle the situation. However, that was not the case here. People didn't turn out to vote pro-life in sufficient numbers either because they were apathetic or because they just didn't understand what was at stake. Either way, that lack of turnout could be a fatal mistake for one reason alone: namely, when the abortion demon knocks, you have to shut the door in his face and get him off your property or he just declares victory, pushes his way in the door and sets up shop. Then an unsuspecting public is left to deal with the consequences of their apathy.
This is exactly what happened in Portugal. The ink was hardly dry on the ballots when radical pro-abortion Prime Minister Jose Socrates declared that the people had spoken and wanted abortion. Hello? No, there were not enough votes to actually legalize it, but that did not matter to Socrates or his fanatical socialist party: Socrates will give the babies of Portugal his cup of hemlock anyway. Parliament will vote sometime in the near future to legalize abortion through legislation because the people have shown that there is no real political liability to being a pro-abortion politician. This is what happens when a nation refuses to reject abortion outright.
Then, the day after the referendum, plans were announced by a coalition of abortionists for the building of a huge $3.5 million abortion facility right in the center of Lisbon. Abortion is not legal yet but the world's baby-killers don't waste any time do they? This is also what happens when a life-loving culture will not insist on the right to life.
The first lesson from Portugal, then, is that apathy kills. If the people are not willing to stand up and reject abortion lock stock and barrel, then that is a vote for the other side. Whoever said that he was neutral on abortion was lying. Anything but a firm "No!" to abortion plays right into the abortionists' hands.
The second lesson is that abortion is rarely if ever asked for by the people of a country; it is almost always imposed by an arrogant elite, who are servants of a fanatical ideology, if the people don't resist their advances. Nations that haven't legalized abortion yet would do well to look carefully at these dynamics and prepare for battle.
Finally, while the Portuguese pro-life movement responded heroically to this challenge, there is simply no substitute for people of conscience standing up to face the problem of abortion as a people. We often complain that the leadership is lacking in our Church on this issue, but in Portugal this was not the case. Church leaders spoke out valiantly and the pro-life activists on the front lines were well-organized and dynamic. What was lacking? A passion for life. Contrast this situation to the almost visceral response of the Nicaraguan people to removing abortion from their criminal code last October, and you see the passion.
The moral of the story: a nation has to want to exorcise the abortion demon from their midst. Otherwise, even the best seeds of life planted by its leaders will fall on the footpath and be scooped up by the devil's servants.
Portugal's battle is not over. In some senses it has just begun. Let us accompany the people of Portugal with our prayers still longer.