Nine-year-old’s abortion stirs Brazil debate
The reaction of the archbishop in northeastern Pernambuco state, who excommunicated the mother of the girl and the doctors, was criticized by Brazil’s health minister as “extreme.” Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who has described abortion as a public issue rather than a moral one, also weighed in, saying “medicine is more correct than the Church.”
Debate in Brazil about the long taboo subject of abortion — which remains illegal except in cases of rape and when the mother’s life is in danger — has sprouted in recent years. The country’s Supreme Court is due to rule this year on whether the exceptions can extend to anencephalic pregnancies, when the fetus has no brain. But despite a rise in the number of legal abortions in recent years, opposition to reform remains stiff — principally from the Catholic Church, but also among a majority of Brazilians, polls show. Pope Benedict made opposition to abortion the cornerstone of his visit to the world’s most populous Catholic country two years ago.
Human Rights Watch voiced concern in a recent report that some states and cities were being pressured by the Church and other groups into making it harder for women to get reproductive health care and contraception. It also criticized a “recent resurgence of police raids of alleged clandestine abortion clinics and prosecutions of its clients and providers.” At least 200,000 clandestine abortions are performed in Brazil every year, officials estimate.