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Poll shows solid majority in favour of abortion

A new poll shows that a majority of Swiss are in favour of legalising abortion, ahead of a vote on the issue on June 2.

The poll, commissioned by the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation - swissinfo's parent company - shows that 64 per cent of voters intend to cast their ballots in favour of a government-backed initiative to legalise abortion.

Some 23 per cent of the 1,255 people polled said they would vote against, with 13 per cent undecided. The survey was conducted by the GfS Research Institute between April 10 and 22.

Abortion remains illegal in Switzerland under a 1942 law, unless the pregnancy puts the mother's life in danger. However, loopholes in the legislation mean that women can usually have a termination performed if they have approval from a doctor. Some 13,000 abortions are carried out each year.

Under the government proposal, women would be entitled to have an abortion within 12 weeks of conception. They would still have to consult a doctor before proceeding, but the decision would ultimately be theirs.

Stricter laws

The poll also questioned respondents about their views on a counter proposal, put forward by pro-life groups, which voters will also have to decide about on June 2.

That initiative - called "For Mother and Child" - calls for a strict ban on abortion, except in extreme circumstances. One of the initiative's backers, the Mother and Child group, admits that the proposed law would make it difficult for rape victims to have an abortion.

The poll showed that 56 per cent of respondents would reject the "Mother and Child" initiative, with 33 per cent in favour and 11 per cent undecided.

Cantonal divide

French-speaking cantons showed strong support for legalising abortion, with 75 per cent in favour, compared with 15 per cent against (and ten per cent undecided).

German-speaking regions were also largely in favour (62 per cent versus 24 per cent against and 14 per cent undecided), but Italian-speaking Ticino was lukewarm with 40 per cent saying they would vote yes and 34 per cent saying no. Twenty-six percent professed not to have made up their minds.

Religious beliefs were found to be a strong influence in how people intended to vote. Among regular church-goers - ie: people who attend church at least once a week - 45 per cent said they would vote against legislation, with 44 per cent in favour and 11 per cent undecided. Voting intentions were similar among Catholics and Protestants.

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