Protests Erupt Across Brazil Against Controversial Abortion Law

Brazilian lawmakers propose the "Rape Bill", criminalizing late-term abortions, despite criticisms of constitutional violations and potential harm to marginalized women. President Lira considers modifications.

Protests Erupt Across Brazil Against Controversial Abortion Law
Photo Source: By José Cruz/ABr, April 12th, 2012, via Agência Brasil

08/07/24

Carolina Batista

Women’s Rights Researcher,

Global Human Rights Defence.

 

Claiming that “a child is not a mother, a rapist is not a father”, hundreds of demonstrators gathered in São Paulo to protest against a bill presented to the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies on June 12th. The proposed Bill 1904/2024, popularly named “Rape Bill”, seeks to equate late-term abortions with homicide under Brazilian law. This contentious Bill, which was rapidly advancing through Congress, sparked widespread outrage and prompted a wave of protests across at least seven other Brazilian cities, reflecting public opposition to the Bill's provisions and highlighting deep political divisions over women's reproductive rights.

The Bill was initiated by federal deputy Sóstenes Cavalcante and supported by 55 other lawmakers, most of them from the Evangelical Caucus and the Liberal Party, the party of ex-president Jair Bolsonaro. It aims to criminalize abortions performed after the 22nd week of pregnancy, regardless of circumstances such as rape or fetal anomalies. If passed, this legislation would impose harsher penalties on women seeking abortions (six to 20 years in prison) than those currently applied to rapists (six to ten years in prison), a stark departure from existing legal protections. Current Brazilian law permits abortions in cases of rape, fetal abnormalities, or when the mother's life is at risk, without specifying a gestational limit.

The Bill's swift advancement in Congress, including a symbolic vote approving the urgency of the project lasting just 23 seconds, has drawn sharp criticism from feminist groups, legal experts, and a broad coalition of civil society organizations. Critics argue that Bill 1904 not only violates constitutional protections but also threatens to push women, particularly those from marginalized communities, towards unsafe and illegal abortions, endangering their health and lives.

According to the Brazilian Public Security Forum (2022), 60 percent of sexual violence cases in 2022 involved children under 13 years old, with 64 percent of the perpetrators being family members. Additionally, another study indicates that Black women are 46 percent more likely to undergo an abortion compared to white women (Diniz et al., 2023). These statistics underscore the severity of the situation, the prevailing impunity, and the significant lack of support for rape victims in Brazil.

Supporters of Bill 1904 argue that it aims to protect the rights of the unborn and uphold moral values, echoing sentiments from “pro-life” conservative and religious groups within Brazil. They contend that the legislation is necessary to prevent what they see as the unjust termination of viable pregnancies.

Opponents, however, assert that Bill 1904 represents a significant setback for women's rights, potentially forcing victims of rape and women facing medical complications to resort to dangerous, clandestine procedures. They argue that the Bill's punitive measures against women seeking abortions are discriminatory and place undue burdens on those already marginalized by socioeconomic factors. A survey revealed that 58 percent of Brazilians over 16 years old are against a total ban on abortion, with 66 percent specifically rejecting Bill 1904/2024 (Datafolha, 2024).

Parallels have been made to Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel “The Handmaid's Tale,” in which women are primarily tasked with bearing children for elite families in a dystopian world. The novel condemns religious fundamentalism, patriarchy, and societal customs, while also criticizing oppression justified in the name of God.

In response to the widespread protests and criticism, the President of the Chamber of Deputies, Arthur Lira, has indicated a willingness to consider modifications to Bill 1904, including revisions that could mitigate some of its most controversial provisions. However, the Bill's fate remains uncertain as it awaits further deliberation in Congress in the second half of the year, where opposing factions continue to clash over its implications for women's autonomy and reproductive freedom.

 

Sources and further readings

Brasil de Fato. (2024, June 23). Manifestações tomam o país contra o PL do Estupro neste domingo (23). Brasil de Fato. Retrieved July 4th, 2024, from https://www.brasildefato.com.br/2024/06/23/manifestacoes-tomam-o-pais-contra-o-pl-do-estupro-neste-domingo-23

Câmara dos Deputados. (2024). Projeto de Lei nº 1904/2024. Retrieved July 4th, 2024, from https://www.camara.leg.br/proposicoesWeb/fichadetramitacao?idProposicao=2434493

Datafolha. (2024, June).  Temas referentes ao Aborto e Projeto de Lei 1904/2024. Datafolha. Retrieved July 4th, 2024, from https://media.folha.uol.com.br/datafolha/2024/06/21/abwlcdfs5ios0pwbgo-p8r1n3cx9z-r9bpxefspolnxbdhc0fjulfohe9pi2tihr8lp-5g8n-ekzhwa77hksmg.pdf

Diniz, D., Medeiros, M., Souza, P.H.G.F, Goés, E. (2023, September). Abortion and race in Brazil, National Abortion Surveys 2016 to 2021. Ciência & Saúde Coletiva, 28(11), 3085-3092. Retrieved July 4th, 2024, from http://doi.org/10.1590/1413-812320232811.14062023EN

Fórum Brasileiro de Segurança Pública. (2022). Anuário Brasileiro de Segurança Pública 2022, 16, ISSN 1983-7364. Retrieved from https://forumseguranca.org.br/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/anuario-2022.pdf?v=5 Accessed July 4th, 2024.

Mariani, R. (2024, June 27). PL do Estupro: Retrocesso e desrespeito à dignidade humana das mulheres e meninas. Contee. Retrieved July 4th, 2024, from https://contee.org.br/pl-do-estupro-retrocesso-e-desrespeito-a-dignidade-humana-das-mulheres-e-meninas/

Medina, M. (2024, June 27). Em 4º ato contra PL do Estupro, manifestantes exigem que projeto seja 'enterrado'. Brasil de Fato. Retrieved July 4th, 2024, from https://www.brasildefato.com.br/2024/06/27/em-4-ato-contra-pl-do-estupro-manifestantes-exigem-que-projeto-seja-enterrado

Neiva, L. (2024, June 24). Mesmo com forte reação popular, Pl do Estupro ganhoy 27 novos autores. Veja a Lista. Congresso em Foco. Retrieved July 4th, 2024, from https://congressoemfoco.uol.com.br/area/congresso-nacional/mesmo-com-forte-reacao-popular-pl-do-estupro-ganhou-27-novos-autores-veja-a-lista/

Sampaio, C. (2024, June 29). Alterar PL do Estupro é 'artimanha política' da bancada fundamentalista, criticam feministas; movimentos cobram arquivamento do projeto.  Brasil de Fato. Retrieved July 4th, 2024, from https://www.brasildefato.com.br/2024/06/29/alterar-pl-do-estupro-e-artimanha-politica-da-bancada-fundamentalista-criticam-feministas-movimentos-cobram-arquivamento-do-projeto