Brazil’s Supreme Court holds public hearing on abortion

By Parliamentary Network for Critical Issues (PNCI)

Professor Hermes Rodrigues Nery

The Supreme Federal Court of Brazil held a public hearing on a case designed to result in the legalization of abortion for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. The lawsuit ADPF n. 442 (or Arguição de Descumprimento de Preceito Fundamental n. 442 in Portuguese) was filed by Brazil’s Socialism and Freedom Party on March 8, 2017 (International Women’s Day) together with pro-abortion NGO, Anis-Institute of Bioethics, Human Rights and Gender.

The strategic lawsuit is an attempt to push access to abortion through the Court since the legislature is overwhelming pro-life. According to news by pro-abortion Ipas,

“Congress is now dominated by conservatives who align themselves with religious groups, as well as with the Parliamentarian Caucus in Defense of Life and the Family, which opposes legal abortion. There are now more than 60 bills pending in Congress presented by conservatives to limit women’s sexual and reproductive rights, including some to ban abortion in all circumstances and criminalize women and health providers who have or provide abortions—and there is just one bill proposed to liberalize the current abortion law.”

Ipas arranged for Anand Grover, the former United Nations Special Rapporteur * on the right to health known for his promotion of abortion, to testify on its behalf at the hearing. Grover wrote a report in 2011 that called laws against abortion a violations of ‘women’s and girls’ right to health’. At the hearing, he presented the pro-abortion claim that international treaties “call for states to protect women’s rights with access to legal abortion”.

Another international NGO [Non-Governmental Organization], International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC), testified at the hearing and filed an amicus brief.

Professor Hermes Rodrigues Nery, the president of the National Pro-Life and Pro-Family Association, testified declaring that Brazil needs to deal with the root causes of the poverty that pressure poor women to seek abortions rather than loosening abortion restrictions.

“It is a false solution; for where we should be fighting the causes of poverty, we chose to fight the poor,” he said.”It is a battle between those with power and those without, who need support.”

Brazil’s bishops conference was represented by Bishop Ricardo Hoerpes of Rio Grande, Brazil, who questioned,

“How will the Supreme Court explain a capital punishment sentence of an innocent, defenseless human being to justify our incapacity in producing adequate public policies when it comes to women’s reproductive rights?”

“The right to life is the most fundamental of rights and, therefore, more than any other, must be protected. It is a right intrinsic to the human condition and not a concession of the state. The powers of the republic have an obligation to guarantee and defend it.”

The bishop argued that the issue should be debated by the people’s representatives, in Congress, and not in a court of law.

Father Jose Eduardo de Oliveira e Silva also spoke on behalf of the bishops and called attention to the larger number of individuals testifying to change the law on abortion compared to those speaking in defense of life stating, “This hearing lends itself only to legitimize the activism of this court,” he said. “It is pretending to listen to the parts, but in reality, is only legitimizing the (decriminalization) that will come next.”

The Court is expected to issue a statement on the case this month with final action expected next year. Brazil’s presidential election takes place in October with leading conservative presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro pledging to veto any attempts by Congress to decriminalize the procedure.

* “A Special Rapporteur is an independent expert appointed by the Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme.”