Brazil legislators reject abortion reform - Irish Times July 10th 2008
A committee in Brazil's lower house of Congress has rejected a bill that would have legalised abortion in the world's most populous Roman Catholic nation.
Some deputies had placards hanging from their necks, showing pictures of aborted fetuses. Another reportedly took a mock-up of a baby's coffin into the debate, in the Chamber of Deputies, to show his opposition to the proposed reforms.
The Justice and Constitution Committee in the Chamber of Deputies voted 57-4 against a bill that had been stuck in Congress for 17 years. The bill is now likely to be shelved.
"This bill won't prosper in the Chamber," said Deputy Eduardo Cunha, committee leader.
Several ruling party legislators pushed the bill after Health Minister Jose Temporao last year all but endorsed legalising abortion.
More than 200,000 women are hospitalised annually because of botched abortions, government statistics show. Based on those figures some experts estimate the number of abortions could be as high as around 1 million per year.
Church groups, which lobbied against the legislative proposal and witnessed the hearing, cheered and prayed in celebration after the vote.
Few legislators supported the bill.
"You can't treat this issue on the basis of religion or belief. It's a public health issue," said Deputy Jose Genoino, who voted in favor of the proposal.
Temporao angered church groups by proposing a referendum on the legalisation of abortion and backing increased use of contraceptives.
The government has begun distributing condoms in public high schools and in April launched its own factory to produce condoms made of rubber from Amazon trees.
Temporao has warned that the large number of women having illegal abortions was a serious public health issue because of often dangerous complications when they went awry.
Many Brazilians believe it is mostly poor teenagers who abort. But a study co-sponsored by the University of Brasilia showed that most abortions were practiced by Catholic mothers, aged 20-29, with jobs, who used contraceptive devices and had steady sexual partners.