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Thousands of Brazil women protest bill equating late-term abortions to homicide

Thousands of women on Saturday took to the streets of the Brazilian city of São Paulo in sweeping opposition to a legislative bill currently under consideration in the country’s Congress intended to criminalize abortions further. Proposed by conservative lawmakers, the bill—if passed—would equate termination after the 22-week mark of pregnancy with homicide, and establish sentences of six to 20 years in prison for individuals found to violate this law. 

Approximately 10,000 protesters, among whom mostly women, congregated in São Paulo’s main Paulista Avenue, carrying banners, posters and signs expressing their outrage over the bill, calling it the most repressive approach to women’s reproductive rights in decades in a country where access to abortion is already restricted. In Brazil, abortion is allowed only in cases of rape, fetal deformation, or when the mother’s life is in danger. Under the new bill, the exception for rape victims would no longer apply; termination of pregnancies resulting from abortion after 22 weeks would also be classed as homicide. 

Several protesters wore green clothes or scarves, which have historically been associated with various women’s rights movements across South and Latin America, and chanted “A child is not a mother, a rapist is not a father”—the slogan was made popular by feminist groups in the country, who argue that the fall-out from the legislation would be greatest for children abused by family members, who comprised approximately 61.4 percent of rape victims in 2022, according to the Brazilian Forum on Public Safety. 

These children, who often do not have the understanding, support or resources to understand what has happened to them or recognize themselves as victims of a crime, frequently discover their pregnancies late. Under the proposed new law, children would be forced to carry to term. 

Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio ‘Lula’ da Silva called the bill insane, and vowed to defend the country’s current law on abortion, which punishes rapists and offers recourse to survivors. Lula’s wife, First Lady Rosangela da Silva, also criticized the bill. Taking to social media, she wrote that Congress should be working to guarantee access to legal and safe abortions through the national health system.

Following the nationwide protests and criticism from the public that survivors of rape seeking abortions would face harsher punishments than their rapists, the bill’s author Sostenes Cavalcante said he would propose harsher sentences for rape. At present, the penalty for rape in Brazil is six to ten years; when there is bodily injury, eight to 12. Only where the victim has passed away can the penalty be higher, with a minimum of 12 to a maximum of 30 years. 

Currently in treatment in the country’s lower chamber, the bill has not yet been distributed to the chamber’s respective committees, as is standard under the ordinary legislative procedure. However, following an urgent request from Deputy Eli Borges, the bill could be voted on directly by the Plenary.

Source: Jurist