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PRESS RELEASE: Petition to Brazilian Supreme Court seeks decriminalization of voluntary abortion

7 de março, 2017

Petition to Brazilian Supreme Court seeks decriminalization of voluntary abortion

Petition filed with the Brazilian Supreme Court calls for the decriminalization of abortion until the 12th week of pregnancy. The request was made on March 7th, 2017, by the Socialism and Freedom Party (PSOL), with support from Anis – Institute of Bioethics.

On Tuesday, March 7th, a petition signed by a group of women lawyers was filed with the Brazilian Supreme Court requesting the decriminalization of voluntary abortion up to the 12th week of pregnancy. The case was presented on the eve of International Women’s Day, in which an international general strike will take place, with women taking the day off from paid and unpaid labor in protest against oppression. In Latin America, many women will march under the slogan Not One Less (Ni Una Menos) demanding an end to violence and feminicide. The petition resonates with it by asking for protection for women’s rights so that no women have to face humiliation, fear of imprisonment or the risk of illness or death due to having an abortion.

In Brazil, abortion is a crime under the 1940 Penal Code; the only three exceptions are in cases of rape, danger to the woman’s life or anencephalic fetus – the last one guaranteed by a 2012 Supreme Court decision. The new petition, presented by the Socialism and Freedom Party (PSOL), with support form Anis – Institute of Bioethics – which supported the 2012 anencephaly case as well -, states that the criminalization of abortion violates women’s rights to dignity, citizenship, non-discrimination, life, equality, freedom, freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, health, and family planning, all of which are protected under the Brazilian Constitution.

The National Abortion Survey 2016 found that in 2015 alone, more than half a million women had abortions in Brazil. Racial and class inequalities make abortion a more common event in the lives of women with greater social vulnerabilities: 15% of Black and Indigenous women have had an abortion in their lives, while 9% of White women have. The criminalization of abortion has serious consequences for women, especially Black and Indigenous women living in underdeveloped regions of the country, and women who are poor, because they have less access to illegal yet safe abortions.

The criminalization of abortion causes preventable injuries and deaths. An abortion performed up to 12 weeks is a very safe procedure. However, recent studies estimate that 8 to 18 percent of maternal deaths worldwide are from unsafe abortions, and are concentrated in lower-income countries. In Brazil, research has found that about half of the women who have already had an ilegal abortion in the country had to be hospitalized.

If the Brazilian Supreme Court votes in favor of the petition proposed by PSOL and Anis, and decriminalizes voluntary abortion up until the 12th week of pregnancy, they will be taking an important stand as guardians of the Brazilian Constitution in protecting the fundamental rights of women.


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