Human Rights

VICTORY: Brazil’s highest court rejects measure to decriminalize abortion for Zika

pregnant, doctor, Ireland, abortion, New York, zika

Brazil’s highest court rejected Zika virus as a justification for abortion, reports Catholic News Agency (CNA). 

In 2015, the emerging Zika virus created panic among many when a spate of birth defects, ranging from mild to severe, called Congenital Zika Syndrome, was detected. The most prominent symptom of the disease is microcephaly, or an abnormally small head size when compared to babies of the same age, and can be tied to profound disability. 

Because of this potential for disability, the National Association of Public Defenders (ANADEP) sought to decriminalize abortion for expectant mothers diagnosed with Zika. Pro-life activists in Brazil expressed concerns that the group’s efforts sought to undermine the country’s long-established legal protections for preborn children. Abortion in Brazil remains illegal and is only decriminalized in cases involving a threat to the life of the mother, rape, or in cases of fetal anencephaly, but no other disability. 

Brazil’s Supreme Federal Tribunal held hearings on April 24, but three days before the verdict deadline of April 30th, a decisive majority of judges — 7 out of 11 — had already voted to reject the measure.

READ: Parents diagnosed with COVID-19 finally meet premature twins after 20 days of quarantine

ANADEP’s proposed measure not only sought to strip the preborn of their protections, but the proposal was also based on questionable assumptions. As Raphael Câmara, an obstetrician at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, pointed out according to CNA, “recent studies show that fetuses of infected mothers are affected only 5 to 14% of the time, with the majority having mild problems, as shown by research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

Câmara also noted that “a study recently released by the CDC showed that 73% of Brazilian labs have a low accuracy rate for diagnosing the Zika virus, so the request is meaningless because we cannot talk about someone ‘infected with Zika’, but rather ‘maybe infected by Zika.’”

In the days leading up to the high court’s vote, Brazil’s National Conference of Catholic Bishops, or CNBB, released a statement blasting the proposal. “The National Conference of Bishops of Brazil reiterates its unchanging and committed position in defense of human life with all its integrality, inviolability and dignity, from its fertilization to the natural death committed to the untouchable moral truth that the right to life is unconditional, must be respected and defended, at any stage or condition in which the human person is.”

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