Brazilian president signs law permitting abortion after papal visit

Pope Francis walks with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff at Rios Galeo Antonio Carlos Jobim Airport on July 22 2013 Credit Walter Sanchez Silva CNA 7 22 13 Pope Francis walks with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff at Rio’s Galeão-Antonio Carlos Jobim Airport on July 22, 2013. | Walter Sanchez Silva/CNA.

Four days after Pope Francis left Brazil, President Dilma Rousseff signed into a law a measure that opens the door to the distribution of abortion-causing drugs in the country's public health care system.

Upon its publication in the government's official journal, the August 1 law requires health care centers in Brazil to administer the "morning-after pill" to women who say they have been raped up to 72 hours after the crime.

The head of Brazil's Special Secretariat for Women's Policies, Eleonora Menicucci, an avid abortion proponent, defended Rousseff saying the decision to sign the law was out of "respect for Congress and for women."

The new norm, she said, will have "a positive impact in preventing abortion in women who have been the victims of rape," although she acknowledged that it allows for abortifacient "emergency contraception." 

The law will also "mitigate the harm caused to the victims of sexual violence," Menicucci said.

Gilberto Carvalho, an advisor to President Rousseff, said the new law offers women "humanitarian support."

At the end of July, more than 20 pro-life organizations in Latin America issued a statement calling on the Brazilian people "not to be deceived and to do everything possible" to prevent the new law from being adopted.

"We have studied the measure and we can see in it the same strategy that is being used in all of our countries to promote widespread use of an abortifacient drug without a prescription," the organizations warned. 

"Pro-abortion organizations have worked hard in recent years and are currently promoting abortion clandestinely with this drug through online or cell phone consultations," said Carlos Polo, director of the Office for Latin America of the Population Research Institute.

Speaking on July 26, before the passage of the law, Polo charged that "the same hand that will shake the hand of Pope Francis should not sign a law that would end the lives of many unborn children."

During a World Youth Day catechesis session on July 26, Bishop Celso Antonio Marchiori of Apucarana in Brazil warned the pilgrims gathered there to be on alert for the imminent legalization of abortion in the country.

Bishop Juan Antonio Reig Pla of Alacala de Henares in Spain, who was also present at the catechesis, agreed.

"We need to be on alert against this threat that is part of the culture of death," he said.

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