Mass Protests Ignite Over Brazil Abortion Law Proposal

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Protesters in Brazil gather to protest against the new abortion bill proposed in Sao Paulo on Saturday, June 15, 2024 (Ettore Chiereguini/AP News)

Brazil has been facing an outburst of protests this past week due to a potential change in reproductive rights. Right now in Brazil, abortion is only allowed in the cases of a pregnancy as a result of rape, a pregnancy that threatens the mother’s life, or fetal anencephaly. In any other case, abortion is a crime punishable up to 3 years in prison.

The author of the bill is Sostenes Cavalcante who is a member of prior President Jair Bolsonaro’s far right-wing party. The bill in question would restrict abortion significantly more for the citizens of Brazil. According to npr, the bill states that abortions after 22 weeks of pregnancy would be considered murder and could punish both women and abortion providers with up to 20 years of prison. This would still hold in the case of pregnancy resulting from rape.

The bill started receiving a lot of backlash when Congress tried to fast track the bill. According to Reuters, the lower chamber of Congress voted to put the bill on a fast track in which in-depth debate on the bill would be restricted. This would mean that it would have been able to pass much easier through all of the committees because the implications of further restrictions on abortion would not be discussed as much.

Protests have broken out across the entire country with the most significant one being in Sao Paulo. According to AP News, 10,000 people were in the streets of Sao Paulo last Saturday, the biggest demonstration of protest in the country. Many women were also seen advocating for reproductive rights through green clothing, a common occurrence across Latin American protests for better reproductive rights.

Another important aspect of the new bill is that a person who gets an abortion would serve a harsher sentence than a person who rapes someone. Right now the punishment for rape is up to 12 years which is less than the proposed punishment for abortion. As a response to this concern, Sostenes Cavalcante has stated that he wants to increase the punishment for rapists in the future. There are no proposed bills for this yet though. 

Many critics of the bill have spoken out and started the campaign “a child is not a mother, a rapist is not a father,” which has since expanded across social media. The reason the bill has been receiving a lot of controversy is because rape is no longer an exception to get an abortion. There is a lot of concern about the fact that in cases of rape, many children are unaware of their pregnancies until past the point of a legal abortion. Another concern is that the bill would overlook the fact that many children endure abuse in their own homes that could result in the need for an abortion. As a result, people would have to leave the country to receive an abortion, but this is not a realistically accessible option for many citizens of Brazil. 

This bill has sparked a lot of controversy across not only reproductive rights in Brazil, but the rights women have in general. The fact that someone who could rape someone would receive a lesser prison sentence than someone who was raped and needed to seek an abortion to terminate the pregnancy is one of the main reasons that has caused many women across Sao Paulo and other areas of Brazil to demonstrate their concerns for the future. 

Written by Sirisha Kunamneni

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