BRAZIL – Federal Supreme Court to vote on decriminalisation of first trimester abortion in an in-person session

Currently in Brazil, abortion is only allowed on three grounds: rape, risk to the woman’s life and when the fetus has anencephaly.

The Federal Supreme Court (STF), which has been responsible for legalising all three of these grounds in past years, heard a case on whether to decriminalise abortion in all circumstances up to the 12th week of pregnancy. The plenary Court began a virtual vote, launched on 24 September, and the current President of the STF, Justice Rosa Weber, (above) cast her vote in favour of decriminalisation.

Then, at the request of Justice Luis Roberto Barroso, the virtual vote was suspended and it was agreed to hold an in-person vote. The vote will be resumed in an in-person session of the Court, but a date has not yet been set. Meanwhile, Justice Barroso will become the president of the Court next week. Justice Weber is retiring, as she will turn 75 next week, and must retire compulsorily.

The case that the vote is based on was filed in 2017 by the PSOL (Socialism and Liberty Party). They argued that termination of pregnancy up to the 12th week should no longer be a crime and insisted that criminalisation affects the dignity of the human person, especially of black and poor women. Justice Weber held that Articles 124 and 126 of the 1940 Penal Code, which criminalised abortion, were not accepted under the 1988 Constitution. She said:

“The dignity of the human person, personal self-determination, freedom, intimacy, reproductive rights, and equality as recognition, after seven decades, are imposed as normative parameters for controlling the constitutional validity of the state’s criminal response. Criminalisation excludes women as autonomous subjects, due to the lack of acceptance of abortion for moral reasons. The State cannot judge that a woman has failed to act on her freedom and the construction of her personal ethos just because her decision does not converge with the orientation presumably accepted as correct by the state or society, from the perspective of a morality.”

SOURCES: Spark Chronicles, by Admin, 24 September 2023 ; PHOTO: José Cruz/Agência Brasil ; BBC News, South America, by Katy Watson, 22 September 2023 ; Mercopress, from Agência Brasil, 23 September 2023.