Special Read: Brazil’s Abortion Battle!

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I was surfing the internet to find something new and interesting to research and write upon. As always, national media disappointed me with its rhetoric and useless reportage. My search ended up on a fascinating and disappointing debate as well as a protest that is going on in Brazil. For a long time, the legalization of abortion has been the bone of contention between the government, citizen groups and feminist organizations. The individual’s right to her own body has been the basic legal question upon which this entire struggle is being continued in Brazil.

Public perception on this issue in Brazil is also very surprising. As per the study which was conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2014, 77% Brazilians believed that abortion should be illegal. But on the other hand, in the year 2015 alone there were 4,16,000 cases of illegal abortion in the country. Just continuing ahead with the fact check, one survey revealed that every 1 in 5 women will have had at least one abortion before the age of 40.

Image result for brazil abortion protest

The protest was fueled because of the petition that was filed by a citizen named Rebeca Mendes Silva Leite in December last year.  Six weeks pregnant, the 30-year-old law student didn’t want another child. She already had two small boys, and support from their father barely covered the rent. If she were forced to take time off from school, she would lose her scholarship and have to drop out. She soon found the #EuVouContar (I Will Tell) blog — part of a campaign by a women’s rights organization to let Brazilians anonymously share their stories of having illegal abortions. Soon a group of lawyers helped her in filing the lawsuit in the Supreme Court of the nation.

Currently, the law on abortion allows abortion only in three cases:

(a) When pregnancy is due to rape

(b) When pregnancy can cause the death of the mother

(c)  When fetus has a brain defect known as anencephaly

Rebecca’s lawsuit actually challenged the 1940 law on abortion which according to her is in violation of the fundamental principles of freedom, health and dignity guaranteed by the Constitution. Five days after the case was filed, Supreme Court Justice Rosa Weber ruled that Mendes’ legal argument — known as “breach of basic precept” — was irrelevant, as it only applies to larger, more abstract cases, and not to decisions about individuals.

Now, the campaigners and advocates of the cause believed that the ruling, which was widely celebrated online, would have a chilling effect on other women going public for the cause.

Other Brazilian news portals and magazines, also highlight this as a conflict between the left and the right. Right-wing groups also got succeeded in impeaching the then President Dilma Rousseff. According to the national op-eds pieces, the right has been driving many conservative political projects, of which one is obviously restricting the reproductive rights. The Evangelical Church is also being viewed as a major social force driving Brazilian conservatives’ political project. Just to give an idea about this community, their federal parliamentary front consists of almost two hundred congress members, acting in tandem with other powerful fronts. Prominent among these are agribusiness, business, the construction sector, and, crucially, the family front: 238 congress-members whose families have pursued political power in Brazil for decades now. Together, these fronts acted in opposition to Rousseff and have helped to keep Michel Temer as president despite his abysmal approval rating.

Image result for Michel TemerMichael Temer (Image Source: Getty Images)

If there is going to be a change in Brazil’s abortion laws anytime soon, they are likely to become stricter, not looser. In early November, a special committee of Congress voted 18-1 in favor of a constitutional amendment that states that life begins at conception and could criminalize all abortions, even in cases of rape. The one vote against the amendment was from the lone woman on the committee.

Author: Rishabh Shrivastava (Editor In Chief, The Analysis)

You can reach him at: eic.analysis@gmail.com