Brazilian Supreme Court to consider legalizing abortion in Zika cases

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Apr 20, 2020 / 09:25 am (CNA).- On Friday, Brazil’s Federal Supreme Court will hold a virtual hearing to consider whether to decriminalize abortion for pregnant women infected with the Zika virus.

The legal intervention, called “Direct Action on Unconstitutionality-ADI 5581,” was filed with Brazil’s highest court by the National Association of Public Defenders. Supreme Court Justice Cármen Lúcia Antunes Rocha will present the legal action to the court, whose 11 members will have until April 30 to vote on the issue.

Several pro-life organizations have come out strongly against efforts to expand abortion, which is illegal in Brazil but is considered a “non-punishable crime” in cases of rape, a proven risk to life of the mother and, as of 2012, babies diagnosed with anencephaly.

“It’s a usurpation of powers because the Supreme Court does not have competency to rule on this matter,” said jurist José Miranda de Siqueira, president of the National Association of Citizens for Life. “This is a crime against the Federal Constitution of Brazil which in Article V guarantees the inviolability of the right to life.”

“We’re working with the Union of Catholic Jurists of Rio de Janeiro and will soon issue a strong statement on the issue,” continued Miranda, who is also a bioethics professor and authored a book on euthanasia, “O Poder sobre a Vida” (The Power over Life), which specifically addresses ADI 5581.

“Life is a preeminent right in the legal world. I’m asking people to pray and publicize this serious situation which is going on,” the lawyer added.

In an open letter to all Brazilians, the National Network for the Defense of Life and Family argued that the court challenge is “part of a strategy to introduce abortion in case of disabilities in general, or even abortion on demand, with the weak justification that the pregnant woman would be in a state of distress.”

“Eugenic abortion carries an enormous burden of prejudice and discrimination towards people with disabilities, sending an unseemly message that it would be better if they did not exist,” the pro-life organization added.

The Zika virus garnered international attention in 2015 after areas of Brazil noted a spike in cases of the birth defect microcephaly – a condition marked by abnormally small heads, brains, and developmental delays – following a recent outbreak of the virus in areas of northeastern Brazil.

Research on the virus suggested a link between Zika virus infection during pregnancy and severe neurological birth defects, including microcephaly and incomplete brain development.

A CitizenGo petition addressed to the Supreme Court justices called for the case to be removed from the docket and for the lives of the unborn to be respected. The petition was launched April 16. Within 24 hours, it had garnered 35,000 signatures and as of April 20 has 85,000.

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