Brazil Supreme Court rules abortions of brain-damaged unborn children legal

After an ongoing abortion battle for the last eight years, the Brazilian Supreme Court on April 12 ruled in favor of an abortion procedure by an 8-to-2 vote.

Justices Marco Aurelio Mello, Rosa Weber, Carmen Luica, Joaquim Barbosa, Luis Fux, Carlos Ayres Britto, Gilmar Mendes, and Celso de Mello voted to legalize a procedure to allow abortions on babies that have anencephaly, a condition in which parts of the brain and skull are not fully developed. Justices Ricardo Lewandowski and Chief Justice Cezar Peluzo were the only two judges who opposed the vote, along with the Brazilian bishops. “To legalize abortion in cases of anencephalic babies, erroneously diagnosed as brain-dead, is to throw away a fragile and defenseless human being,” according to the bishops in a recent letter.

There were vigils also taking place on April 10, along with thousands of peaceful protestors opposing the ruling. The roots of this lengthy battle stem back to 2004, when the Confederation of Medical Professionals filed a lawsuit demanding that abortion be a woman’s right. Before this ruling, the largest Catholic nation in the world allowed abortion in cases of rape and when the mother’s life is at risk. Now, this is the newest exception added to that list. The Supreme Court said that “forcing women to maintain their pregnancies when their ‘fetuses’ have been diagnosed with anencephaly creates a risk to their physical and psychological health.”

Roberto Gurgel, Brazil’s attorney general, mentioned that a woman should decide whether or not she wants to give birth to a baby born without a brain. Gurgel also says that “the therapeutic anticipation of delivery in cases of anencephaly constitutes the exercise of a fundamental right of the mother.” However, he seems to forget about the fundamental right of the baby. Justice Marco Aurelio Mello said that these babies “would never become a person[.] … This is not about a potential life, but about certain death.”

The Conference of Catholic Bishops of Brazil said they had “profound regret” over the decision by the Supreme Court. “Anencephalic fetuses, like all innocent and fragile human beings, cannot be thrown away or stripped of their fundamental rights,” they said.

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