27 September 2023, The Tablet

Brazil’s Supreme Court adds abortion to agenda


A recent survey found that a narrow majority of Brazilians oppose liberalisation of the law, 43 per cent against 39 per cent.


Brazil’s Supreme Court adds abortion to agenda

Judge Rosa Weber, the president of Brazil’s Supreme Court, is due to retire shortly.
Foto Arena LTDA / Alamy

Brazil’s Supreme Court has launched a debate on the legalisation of abortion in Brazil.

The initiative came from Judge Rosa Weber, the president and only woman member of the court, who argued that “social and reproductive justice” were part of the rights of women under the Brazilian constitution.

Judge Weber, who is due to retire shortly, put the issue on the court’s agenda on 22 August, with the support of Judge Luis Roberto Barroso, who will succeed her as president.

Current Brazilian law allows abortion in only three cases, rape, danger to the life of the pregnant woman and malformation of the foetus’ brain. It is estimated, however, that there are 500 clandestine abortions a year in Brazil.

A recent survey found that a narrow majority of Brazilians oppose liberalisation of the law, 43 per cent against 39 per cent. This is a shift decline from 2022, when those opposing legalisation represented 48 per cent of the population.

In the Brazilian Congress, which has a large cross-party anti-abortion bloc, 195 proposals are in circulation to make Brazil’s legislation even more restrictive.

The executive of the Brazilian bishops conference responded to the court’s actions by reaffirming that “abortion constitutes the elimination of a human life and is therefore an intrinsically evil act and so cannot be legitimised as a good or a right”.

They accused the two justices of pursuing “an anti-democratic agenda in that, riding roughshod over the National Congress, they call on the Federal Supreme Court to exercise a function that does not belong to it, which is to legislate in the face of a supposed, but non-existent, omission on the part of the Congress, since if until today abortion has not been approved by the Congress...it is not through an omission on the part of parliament, but because of an absolute absence of interest by the Brazilian people, from whom all power derives, according to Article 1 of the Federal Constitution.”

It is not clear when the Supreme Court will debate the proposal, as it will go to a full hearing, for which no date has yet been set.


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