FaithWorld

Brazil’s ugly abortion reality lost in election noise

brazil abortionIt was a little-noticed headline amid the daily crime, violence and accidents in Rio de Janeiro’s rough outskirts — Adriana de Souza Queiroz, 26, dead after a clandestine abortion went wrong. Queiroz, who scraped a living handing out pamphlets and was 3 or 4 months pregnant, last month became one of the some 300 Brazilian women who die each year after back street abortions.

The issue of abortion in the world’s most populous Roman Catholic country has been thrust into the spotlight by a presidential election in which front-running candidate Dilma Rousseff has been punished by religious voters for her past support for decriminalizing the procedure. (Photo:  An anti-abortion march in Brasilia September 10, 2008/Jamil Bittar)

Abortion rights groups have long argued the law does little to prevent abortions in Brazil and mostly hurts poor women who can’t afford safer, expensive underground clinics.

The health ministry says that about one in seven Brazilian women under 40 have had at least one abortion and about a third of all pregnancies end in the procedure. That is in line with the rest of Latin America, which has among the world’s highest abortion rates despite it being mostly illegal, and compares to about a fifth in the United States, where abortion is legal.

When President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva came to power in 2003, many believed Brazil’s strict abortion laws could be liberalized. But with both Rousseff of the ruling Workers’ Party and her opposition rival Jose Serra now vying ahead of the Oct. 31 runoff election to convince voters of their “respect for life” and opposition to decriminalization, any reform may now be off the agenda for years.

Brazil “values voters” go YouTube against prez hopeful Rousseff

pastor022The YouTube video that helped push Brazil’s presidential election to a second round begins with Paschoal Piragine solemnly telling his flock: “In 30 years as a pastor, I’ve never done this before.” He then warns them that the ruling Workers’ Party wants not only to legalize abortion, but would make divorce easier, permit the spread of pornography, and continue to allow tribes in the Amazon to bury alive “thousands of children.”

The video, which includes disturbing images and has received nearly 3 million views, concludes with the Baptist preacher telling his followers not to vote for the Workers’ Party in upcoming elections. “Otherwise, God will judge our land,” Piragine says.

The last-minute doubts of many evangelical Christian and Catholic voters probably cost Workers’ Party presidential candidate Dilma Rousseff an outright first-round victory in last Sunday’s election, polls suggest. The shift is unlikely to keep Rousseff from winning an October 31 runoff vote against her nearest contender, opposition leader Jose Serra.

Rousseff courts Brazil’s faith voters with “for life” comments

dilma (Photo: Brazilian presidential candidate Dilma Rousseff in Brasilia, October 5, 2010/Ueslei Marcelino)

Brazil’s ruling party candidate Dilma Rousseff is playing up her Roman Catholic background in efforts to win back religious voters, whose doubts about her faith and position on abortion rights may have cost her an outright victory in Sunday’s presidential election.

In a surprise shift, many religious voters who oppose abortion, especially evangelical Christians, abandoned Rousseff’s  center-left Workers’ Party to vote for the Green Party’s Marina Silva, who captured an unexpectedly large 19 percent of the vote.

“Personally, I’m from a Catholic family. I am and always was in favor of life,” Rousseff told reporters on Tuesday outside of her campaign headquarters in Brasilia. “I have no problem addressing the religious issue. My project addresses all the religions.”

Polish maverick MP launches anti-clerical party

polandA flamboyant millionaire lawmaker could have an instant impact on Polish politics with a new, anti-clerical party that would legalise abortion on demand, provide free condoms and curb the Catholic Church’s clout.

Janusz Palikot told the founding congress of his Modern Poland (NP) movement late on Saturday that he would quit Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s ruling centre-right Civic Platform (PO) and also resign his parliamentary seat on December 6. (Photo: A statue of the Virgin Mary in Kobylin-Borzymy, June 27, 2010/Kacper Pempel)

“The Modern Poland movement demands the removal of religious instruction from schools, liquidation of the clergy (pension) fund… and state ceremonies at which we do not have to view the fat bellies of bishops,” Palikot told 4,000 cheering supporters.

Russian Orthodox want tougher abortion law, ties with “pro-life” West

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Moscow's Red Square -- soon the site of an anti-abortion march? (Itar-Tass photo 9 May 2005)

The Russian Orthodox Church has called for tougher rules to reduce the number of abortions carried out in a country struggling to combat its fast-dwindling population.  Russia registered 1.2 million abortions and 1.7 million births last year, according to the Health Ministry.

“In Soviet times we got used to abortion and we got used to considering it an unavoidable part of our legal reality and that there is no way to the turn back the page,” Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, a powerful cleric who is close to Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, was quoted as saying by Interfax news agency.  “But we see today that it is possible to turn back a great deal,” said Chaplin,  He  said the legislation had to change but declined to say how.

Kenya PM blasts judges for barring Islamic courts from constitution

kenya doves

President Mwai Kibaki (C), Prime Minister Raila Odinga (L) and Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka (R) release pigeons for peace at a Nairobi rally for the constitution referendum on May 15, 2010/Thomas Mukoya

Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga has attacked the country’s judiciary as an obstacle to reform after its high court  ruled it would be discriminatory to entrench kadhi courts — Islamic courts that rule on the basis of sharia — in Kenya’s constitution. The ruling came three months before Kenyans vote in a referendum on a proposed new constitution, seen as an important step towards ensuring that post-election violence which shook east Africa’s largest economy in 2008 is not repeated.

Opposition to the Muslim courts brought together Christian clergy and some politicians to oppose the proposed constitution. The kadhis’ courts deal with matters of marriage, divorce and inheritance among Muslims.

Stupak now target of all sides in abortion debate

Up until a few days ago Bart Stupak, an unassuming Democratic congressman from Michigan, was a hero among American activists opposed to abortion rights (who refer to themselves as “pro-life”). This was because Stupak had managed to insert strong language in the House of Representatives version of the healthcare bill aimed at preventing any federal tax  funds from being used for abortion.

What a difference a weekend makes. President Barack Obama clinched the votes he needed to win passage for his healthcare overhaul on Sunday by winning over a handful of Democratic abortion rights opponents, led by Stupak, with the pledge of an executive order affirming restrictions on the use of federal funds for the procedure.

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Stupak was suddenly a traitor to the cause, with barbs like “Judas” thrown his way on the blogosphere. Randy Neugebauer, a Republican congressman from Texas,  reportedly yelled “Baby killer!,” while Stupak explained why he was finally going to support the bill. Neugebauer was later quoted as saying he was referring to the bill and not Stupak himself, but that is the kind of emotional language one often hears in the shouting matches on this issue.

Karl Rove says did not ask for gay marriage fight

Karl Rove, the political operative widely credited with the electoral successes of former U.S. President George W. Bush, says in his new book that he did not choose gay marriage as a wedge issue but that circumstances thrust it his way.

Conventional wisdom, at least in some circles, has it that Rove masterminded gay marriage as an issue in the 2004 White House race  in a bid to get conservative evangelicals — a key base for the Republican Party, especially during the Bush years – to the polls. There were ballot initiatives in about a  dozen states that year to ban gay marriage (or, supporters of such measures would argue, to defend traditional marriage).  Many political commentators have said such tactics are in keeping with the “Rovian” strategy of ginning up the base to clinch narrow victories.

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Rove, in “Courage and Consequence: My Life as a Conservative in the Fight,”  says the ballot initiatives made little difference to the outcome that year and that they were not his idea anyway.

Pew dissects U.S. “Millennials” on issues of faith and culture

The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life has just issued a report that examines issues of faith and culture among Americans between the age of 18 and 29 — a demographic group that has been dubbed the “Millennials” because most came of age around 2000. You can see our story here and the report here.

A couple of things come to mind. One is the finding that Millennials were far more likely than their elders from “Generation X” and the “Baby Boom” to be unaffiliated with a specific faith. In the context of recent American history, Generation X was born between 1965 and 1980, while Baby Boomers flooded the country from 1946 to 1964.

The report found one-in-four American Millennials unaffiliated with any specific faith, compared to 20 percent of Generation Xers at a comparable point in their lives (the late 1990s). Only 13 percent of Baby Boomers were religiously “unaffiliated” in the late 1970s when they were roughly the age Millennials are now.

Super bowl abortion ad: what do you think of the hype?

Much of the hype around this year’s Super Bowl pro football championship game focused on an ad by the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family that featured college football superstar Tim Tebow and his mother Pam.

Several abortion rights and women’s groups had complained in advance about the reported content of the ad, which they said would have a strong anti-abortion rights message.  Reports suggested that the ad would focus on Pam Tebow’s decision to carry Tim to term despite a recommendation from her doctors that she have an abortion. The Tebow family is deeply evangelical and he was born in the Philippines where his parents were doing missionary work.

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Several groups that oppose abortion rights came out in strong support of the ad. None of this is surpring given the highly polarizing nature of the issue in America.