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LISBON, Portugal – A national referendum to scrap Portugal’s strict abortion law appeared headed to defeat Sunday because of low turnout, even though a majority of voters approved it.

Turnout was below the 50 percent required to make the ballot valid, according to exit polls. The government has said it would enact legislation easing the abortion law if most of those who voted Sunday backed the proposal.

Debate over the abortion law, one of the most restrictive in the European Union, pitted the Socialist government against conservative parties and the Catholic Church, which claims more than 90 percent of Portuguese as followers.

Under current law, the procedure is allowed only in cases of rape, fetal malformation or if a mother’s health is in danger, and only in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

In most other EU nations, abortion is permitted within much broader limits. Women can ask for abortions up to the 24th week of pregnancy in Britain and up to the 12th week in Germany, France and Italy. Portugal’s center-left Socialist government wants to grant women the right to opt for abortion during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy.


CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Harvard University named historian Drew Gilpin Faust as its first female president on Sunday, ending a lengthy and secretive search to find a successor to Lawrence Summers and his tumultuous five-year tenure.

The board of overseers elected Faust, a noted scholar of the American South and dean of Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, as the university’s 28th president. She was chosen after a search in which a number of potential candidates said they were not interested in the job.

With the hiring of Faust, half of the eight Ivy League schools will have a woman as president. Her selection is noteworthy given the uproar over Summers’ comments that genetic differences between the sexes might help explain the dearth of women in top science jobs, comments which sparked debates about equality at Harvard and nationwide.

Faust oversaw the creation of two faculty task forces, formed in the aftermath of Summers’ remarks, to examine gender diversity at Harvard. She has been dean of Radcliffe since 2001, two years after the former women’s college was merged into the university as a research center with a mission to study gender issues.


CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – A University of Virginia psychiatrist says that many women have mediocre sex lives because more of them are becoming achievers and overachievers.

Anita H. Clayton, an expert on women’s sexuality and mental health, has noticed that the pressure to juggle work and family has caused sexual relations to become less of a priority.

“Women keep things going all at once,” said Clayton, a psychiatry professor at the University of Virginia Health System.

Clayton has written a book on her findings titled “Satisfaction: Women, Sex, and the Quest for Intimacy,” published by Ballentine/Random House. The book was written with Robin Cantor-Cook, a writer and an adjunct instructor at the College of William and Mary.

The book aims to help women find a way to raise their expectations about sexual satisfaction through gaining a better understanding of themselves and their needs.

“Women can change their level of satisfaction,” she said. “We need to change the belief systems that are holding us back.”

The book cites a study that showed 43 percent of women are unhappy with their sex lives, “which doesn’t seem bad unless you believe, as I do, that the other 57 percent were lying,” she said.

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