Brazil's bishops condemn abortion legalization in cases of anencephaly

The Bishops of Brazil condemned the local Supreme Court's 8-2 vote on April 12 legalizing abortion in cases of unborn babies with anencephaly.

“To legalize abortion in cases of anencephalic babies, erroneously diagnosed as brain-dead, is to throw away a fragile and defenseless human being,” the the bishops said.

“It is ethically inadmissible to take an innocent human life, without exception.”
Anencephaly is a condition in which the brain is partially developed or completely absent. Over 80 percent of Brazilians have said they do not support abortion in such cases and the country’s bishops have repeatedly voice opposition to any such proposals.

After two days of testimony, Justices Marco Aurelio Mello (who wrote for the majority), Rosa Weber, Carmen Luica, Joaquim Barbosa, Luis Fux, Carlos Ayres Britto, Gilmar Mendes and Celso de Mello voted to legalize the procedure.

Justices Ricardo Lewandowski and Chief Justice Cezar Peluzo were the lone voices opposing the move. Justice Dias Toffoli recused himself because of his stance in favor of abortion in cases of anencephaly when he was Attorney General.


Eight of the currrent Supreme Court justices were appointed by former President Lula Da Silva and two by current President Dilma Rousseff.  Analysts said the ruling that ended an eight year-long battle over the issue of abortion in such cases was the result of an orchestrated campaign by abortion rights supporters, who were unable to make their case in Congress and took the issue instead to the Brazilian courts. In 2004 the Confederation of Medical Professionals filed a lawsuit demanding that abortion be declared “a woman’s right.”

In his dissent, Chief Justice Cesar Peluzo wrote, “The anencephalic fetus is alive, even if for a short time, and that life is constitutionally protected.”  As a person, he added, “its rights are protected, which include the protection of its life.”

He said the argument that babies with anencephaly pose a “danger” to the life of the mother “are not relevant, because the hypothesis on health risks are already expressed in the law. Moreover, every pregnancy in some way involves a theoretical risk to the health of the mother.”

The Conference of Catholic Bishops of Brazil issued a statement on April 12 expressing “profound regret” over the decision by the Supreme Court.

“Anencephalic fetuses, like all innocent and fragil human beings, cannot be thrown away or stripped of their fundamental rights,” they emphasized.

The bishops acknowledged that babies with such a condition are a cause of great sorrow for families, especially the mother, “but to consider abortion as the best option for the woman, and to deny the inviolable right to life of the unborn, ultimately ignores the negative psychological consequences for the mother.

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“The State and society must defend and protect the unborn,” they said.

The bishops rejected arguments that the Church’s position on the issue constitutes intrusion into government affairs and said the Church has a right to promote the defense of human life and dignity.

“The resurrection of Jesus, which commemorates the victory of life over death, inspires us to reaffirm with conviction that human life is sacred and its dignity is inviolable,” the bishops said.

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