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Sociological Focus. 1998 Aug; 31(3):303-312.In measuring public opinion about controversial issues, pollsters strive for balanced and comprehensive coverage of the subject. This type of coverage may be undermined, however, when one perspective of the issue tends to predominate in society. This point is illustrated by a review of questions major pollsters asked about the abortion issue over an eight-year period. The data suggest that in querying the public about abortion rights, in describing the legal and empirical realities of the abortion situation and in seeking the public's reaction to abortion politics and policy, pollsters tended to reflect the dominant pro-choice perspective. (author's)
REPRODUCTIVE FREEDOM NEWS. 1998 Jul 1; 7(6):6.According to international press reports, a law that would have allowed Portuguese women abortions through the 10th week of pregnancy and into the 16th week if their physical or mental health was at risk has been rescinded after a referendum to determine the statute's future was voided because of low voter turnout. Passed in February, the law was a liberalization of Portugal's strict anti-abortion laws, which ban all abortions except for narrowly defined medical reasons or in the case of rape (and those are permitted only until the 12th week of pregnancy). Because the issue is such a controversial one, politicians had turned to a national referendum asking Portuguese voters to overturn or ratify the new law. The referendum was the first in the country since the end of its right-wing dictatorship in 1974, and 50% participation was required. Only 31.5% of the country's 8.5 million eligible voters went to the polls on June 28. Of those voting, 50.9% voted against the liberalized new legislation. Sunny weather and World Cup soccer matches were both pointed to as reasons for the low turnout. Officials estimate there are some 20,000 illegal abortions annually in Portugal. Abortion-rights activists in the mostly Roman-Catholic country say hospitals see roughly 10,000 women a year suffering from complications from illegal abortions, and that at least 800 women die each year from the procedure. In the next day's Diario de Noticias, a daily paper in Portugal, the entire front page was filled with a giant question mark. "What now, lawmakers?" the headline read. (full text)
Lancet. 1998 Jan 3; 351(9095):46.This news brief reports that 77% of Irish voters believe that abortion should be permitted in Ireland in limited circumstances. The public opinion poll was conducted by "The Irish Times" newspaper publisher. The sample included 1000 voters at 100 sampling points throughout the country. The poll was conducted 3 days after a 13-year-old girl received an abortion. The abortion was arranged by the Eastern Health Board. Anti-abortion members of the Eastern Health Board protested this decision at a board meeting held in December 1997. Anti-abortion protesters argued that the Board should support the Medical Council's directives. The proposed motion to require the Board to accept the guidance of the Medical Council was defeated overwhelmingly. The Board's decisions rely on legislation. The Irish Medical Council states that there is no medical necessity for abortion. Only 18% of the survey sample disapproved of abortion for any reason. 35% agreed that abortion should be allowed when the mother's life was at risk. 14% approved of abortion if the mother's health was at risk. 28% said that abortion should be available to any woman who requests one.