By: Emily Green
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil– On Monday November 13, thousands of women flooded the streets of Brazil in protest of a congressional vote to ban abortion. If enacted, the constitutional amendment would prohibit abortion under any circumstances.

Women march against proposal for total abortion ban in Rio. Image Courtesy of Silvia Izquierdo.

Protestors carried their children along with them as they shouted, “our bodies are ours!” The march reached the Rio state legislature and scuffles with authorities developed. The Police were forced to fire tear gas to settle the crowd.

Right now, Brazil’ criminal code allows abortion for pregnancies that result from rape, as well as pregnancies that endanger the mother’s life. Also, many women have been allowed to abort anencephalic fetuses. Courts found it was traumatic to make women give birth to infants that would certainly die from birth defects after delivery.

Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies, made up of all men, voted 18-1 in favor of this constitutional amendment to further restrict abortions. The only female congresswoman to vote, Erika Kokay, gave the only ‘nay’. If enacted, this amendment would ban all abortions in Brazil and remove any exceptions, including those for victims of rape. Congressman Tadeu Mudalen, in favor of the ban, asserts that “life starts at the moment of conception and therefore should be protected by law.”

However, the victory in this special committee is not binding. Since it is a constitutional amendment, it needs a super-majority in both Congress’ lower house and the Senate to become law. Rodrigo Maia, speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, assures that any ban on abortion without exception for rape won’t pass his chamber.

In Brazil, hundreds of women have died from unsafe abortion in the last few years. Women and girls who do not wish to continue their pregnancies will be forced to continue them against their will or will resort to terminating them clandestinely. Even if the pregnancy threatens their health or results from rape, the law allows no exception. These illegal abortions are dangerous and could lead to prison sentences of up to three years.

Maira Kubik Mano, a Ph.D from the University of Bahia says that “if this bill passes, it will most affect poor, black Brazilian women, as they can’t afford to be treated in clandestine abortion clinics.” The typical profile of women who seek abortions are those who haven’t studied further than high school and have limited access to birth control and sex education. Even with the current restrictive law, wealthy women are the only ones who have access to safe procedures in private clinics.

This demonstration in Rio is just one of several going on in other Brazilian cities. Women carry signs reading “Secular uterus” and “I don’t deserve to bear the child of my rapist.”

For more information, please see:

ABC News – Thousands protest proposal for total abortion ban in Brazil – 13 November 2017

Brazilian Report – Brazil’s Congress wants to ban all abortions, even for rape victims – 10 November 2017

Human Rights Watch – Will Brazil’s Congress Turn Its Back on Women and Girls? – 10 November 2017

Telesur – Brazilian Women Prepare to Protest Full Abortion Ban – 10 November 2017

Independent – Brazilian male MPs chant ‘abortion no’ after voting to ban terminations for pregnant rape victims – 9 November 2017

Author: Emily Green