Voters in Liechtenstein on Sunday rejected a proposal to legalize abortion [JURIST news archive] in the country after Hereditary Prince Alois of Liechtenstein [official profile], the acting Head of State, expressed displeasure with the law [press release, PDF in German] and threatened to veto the proposed change. The referendum, entitled Help Instead of Punishment, would have decriminalized abortion [AP report] in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy or if the child is severely disabled. According to official count, 52.3 percent of voters voted against the referendum, while 47.7 percent voted in favor of the proposed change. Under the current law, women who get an abortion can be sentenced to up to one year in prison, and doctors who perform the procedure can be sentenced to up to three years in prison. Abortions may only be performed in the country to save the life of the mother or if the mother was under age 14 when she became pregnant. A counter proposal is expected to come before the Liechtensten Parliament [official website, in German] soon. Under the counter proposal, abortion would still be a crime, but it would no longer be punished.
Abortion rights has been a contentious issue in the international community with many advocacy groups criticizing countries with restrictive policies regarding the procedure. In August 2010, the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) [advocacy website] criticized [JURIST report] the restrictive abortion laws of the Philippines as a "human rights crisis," resulting in the death of thousands of women annually. In January 2010, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] argued that Ireland's restrictive abortion laws increase health risks to women [JURIST report] and expose them to deliberate misinformation about abortion procedures. Ireland's current legislation prohibits abortion for any reason except when the mother's life is threatened and carries a potential sentence of life imprisonment. In July 2009, Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] called on Nicaragua to end its total ban on abortions [JURIST report], calling for the country to eliminate severe criminal punishments for those who seek or perform abortions.