Swiss OK of Abortion May Be Put on Hold

LUGANO, Switzerland, MAR. 23, 2001 ( The Swiss Parliament voted today to legalize abortion, after an eight-year debate, the Associated Press reported.

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The Christian People´s Party, a member of the coalition government, immediately challenged the decision and announced it would collect the 100,000 signatures necessary under Swiss law to force a referendum, AP said. That would prevent the law from taking effect before the national vote, which is unlikely to be held for several years.

Abortion is technically illegal but widely practiced in this nation of 7.2 million. In most cities, it is relatively easy for a woman to end the life of her unborn child in state-run hospitals or private clinics provided she has a signed letter from a second doctor stating that there are sound medical reasons.

A proposal to legalize abortion until the 14th week of pregnancy was first put forward by the Socialist Party eight years ago. During subsequent parliamentary debates, this was reduced to 12 weeks.

The National Council, Parliament´s larger chamber, voted 107-69 to legalize abortion without requiring women first to seek neutral advice at a state-approved center. The other house, the Council of States, approved the proposal 22-20.

The Christian People´s Party wanted to insert a clause requiring women to undergo independent counseling, but it was rejected. Party President Adalbert Durrer said the new version of the proposed law «offered totally insufficient protection of the unborn life. … The question of abortion should not be considered by the woman alone.»

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