In an April 12 vote of eight in favor and only two in dissent, the Supreme Federal Tribunal of Brazil made legal the abortion of unborn babies diagnosed during pregnancy with anencephaly, drawing statements of condemnation from Brazil’s Catholic bishops and pro-life leaders.
“This decision is an action outside of the competence of the Tribunal, as it ought to be voted on in the national Congress by the people’s representatives and not by unrepresentative, un-elected judges that were nominated by the pro-abortion government,” said Raymond de Souza, regional coordinator for Portuguese-speaking nations at Human Life International (HLI).
Anencephaly is a condition that leads to a malformation or absence of large parts of the brain.
Brazil is the world’s most populous Roman Catholic country. Religious and pro-life groups organized vigils and protests outside of the Supreme Court and in other cities in opposition to the ruling.
Speaking for the majority in the decision, Justice Marco Aurelio Mello said babies with anencephaly “would never become a person … This is not about a potential life, but about certain death.”
Chief Justice Cesar Peluzo, one of the two dissenting Justices, made clear in his dissent that Brazil’s constitution protects the right to life of babies with anencephaly. “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.”
Prior to the Supreme Court’s ruling, abortion was banned in Brazil except in cases of rape and those which pose a threat to the life of the mother. The decision ended an eight year-long battle over the issue of abortion in cases of anencephaly that pro-abortion supporters were unable to gain traction on in the legislature.
“The current government party has been trying to approve abortion for so long, and they were not able to do it via Congress, so the obvious way is to go to the Supreme Court, which is the tendency in many countries of Latin America,” said Mario Rojas, HLI’s regional coordinator for Latin America.
The Conference of Catholic Bishops of Brazil issued a statement last week against the Supreme Court’s decision which they say strips human beings of their fundamental rights.
“The principles of ‘inviolable right to life,’ the ‘human dignity’ and promoting the welfare of all without any discrimination [in the Federal Constitution] refer to both the woman and anencephalic fetuses. When life is not respected, all other rights are disregarded,” said the bishops.
“Anencephalic fetuses, like all innocent and fragile human beings, cannot be thrown away or stripped of their fundamental rights,” the bishops emphasized. “The State and society must defend and protect the unborn.”