Hoping for Progress: Brazil Supreme Court Will Soon Rule on Abortion Law

In Brazil, abortion is a crime in most circumstances, including when the woman is carrying an anencephalic fetus – a fetus whose brain is undeveloped and will thus die in the uterus or right after birth. As soon as this month, Brazil’s Supreme Court will rule on a case that might decriminalize abortion for cases of anencephaly.

Last week our partner the Institute of Bioethics, Human Rights and Gender (ANIS), launched a campaign for the right to interrupt a pregnancy in cases of anencephaly. The organization posted a video in Portuguese on youtube and they have an online petition that can be signed by anyone, not only Brazilians. We encourage everyone to sign it!

Also: some more background on the development of this case over the past few years. A few months ago when Debora Diniz, founder of ANIS and now a board member of IWHC, was in town, I interviewed her a bit about the work that ANIS has been doing. Here’s an excerpt of that interview – for the full interview, plus a short video clip, check out the original post.

DEBORA DINIZ: In 2004, Anis presented a case to the Brazilian Supreme Court. It was a case on an anencephalic pregnancy, which is when the fetus has no brain and will not survive after birth. In Brazil, abortion is banned with two exceptions: when the woman’s life is at risk and in case of rape. Our idea was to change this small piece of abortion legislation at the Supreme Court level.

DENISE HIRAO: So this case was filed in the Brazilian judiciary and it went to the Supreme Court. Can you tell us what has happened since then?

DEBORA DINIZ: We got a preliminary injunction, a temporary authorization that allows women to decide if they want to abort when encephaly occurs. No women were forced to abort; they were free to choose whatever they wanted. But we lost the authorization; it was cancelled by the Supreme Court.

DENISE HIRAO: I understand that you have made a few short documentaries about this issue. Can you tell us a bit about the films?

DEBORA DINIZ: In partnership with International Women’s Health Coalition we did two films. Four Women tells the story of four women who were able to get abortions during the time that women were protected by the preliminary injunction. The second film is Severina’s Story – Severina is the name of a farmer, a poor woman who was in the hospital on the same day that the Supreme Court cancelled the authorization. We decided to follow Severina during four months after the cancellation so we could show the part of Severina’s life that the Supreme Court never witnessed.

Denise Hirao is IWHC’s Program Officer for Latin America. Read her bio here

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