brazil’s supreme court edges closer to decriminalization
Brazil’s critical abortion rights case has been in a state of suspension since 2018, when the Supreme Court conducted a public hearing. During that pivotal event, Human Rights Watch strongly advocated considering Brazil’s international legal obligations in shaping the Court’s decision. Brazil’s current abortion legislation, rooted in 1940, has been at odds with the nation’s human rights commitments. It criminalizes abortion in most circumstances, permitting it only in cases of sexual violence, life-threatening pregnancies, or the detection of the fatal fetal condition known as anencephaly.
International Urgency to Reform Abortion Laws:
United Nations human rights bodies have consistently called upon Brazil to decriminalize abortion. They have firmly asserted that denying access to abortion services for women, girls, and other pregnant individuals constitutes a form of discrimination. Such denial not only infringes upon the right to privacy but also endangers the rights to life, health, information, and protection from cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment.
Justice Rosa Weber’s Parting Message:
Justice Rosa Weber, former President of the Court, delivered her vote in the case on September 22, just before her retirement. In her emphatic statement, she underscored that motherhood should be a matter of choice rather than a coercive
obligation. She argued that compelling someone to continue an unwanted pregnancy amounts to institutional violence, violating the woman’s physical, psychological, and moral integrity. The remaining justices are expected to vote during an upcoming public hearing.
A Turning Point for Women’s Rights in Brazil:
Should the full Court favor women’s rights, Brazil would align itself with other Latin American countries that recently decriminalized abortion, including Argentina, Colombia, and Mexico. Such a decision would constitute a significant triumph for the Green Tide abortion rights movement and might serve as an impetus for positive change in neighboring nations.
The Power of Collective Action:
Local organizations in Latin America, including the Anis Institute for Bioethics, Human Rights, and Gender, which initiated the lawsuit, alongside various Brazilian civil society groups, have dedicated years to advancing the cause of abortion decriminalization. The collective efforts of women’s rights organizations, operating at both global and local levels, have wielded substantial influence in pushing for laws that respect human rights.
Brazil’s Opportunity to Ensure Abortion Access:
Women and other individuals with pregnancies in Brazil have endured a prolonged wait for their reproductive rights to be secured. The impending judgment represents a long-overdue opportunity for Brazil to harmonize its laws with international human rights standards, guaranteeing access to safe and legal abortion services for all. It signifies a crucial moment in the nation’s ongoing struggle for reproductive justice.