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Birth Defect Allows Abortion in Brazil

Birth Defect Allows Abortion 
  in Brazil

Brazil’s Supreme Court
has authorized abortion when a fetus has
no brain. Abortions in the country are permitted only in cases of
rape and when a mother’s life is at risk. The Catholic Church has
already protested the measure. "Even without a brain, the fetus
deserves the dignity due a human being," says a Catholic bishop.
by: Benedito
Mendonça

Brazilian Supreme Court justice, Marco Aurélio de Mello, has ruled
that a woman may interrupt a pregnancy if it is discovered that the fetus
is anencephalic, that is, with a partial or total lack of a brain. The decision
is valid for all of Brazil, but the case still has to go before the whole
court.

Mello ruled on a suit
brought by the National Confederation of Health Workers (CNTS), which argued
that it was an indignity to force a woman to carry to term a fetus that was
not viable.

"It is combined physical
and mental suffering, tantamount to torture," declared the CNTS lawyer,
Luiz Roberto Barroso.

In the past the law was
that a woman had to go to court to get permission to have an abortion in cases
of an anencephalic fetus. The legal process often dragged on longer than the
pregnancy. "I have had cases when the baby was born before the court
decision," said Barroso.

Meanwhile, the secretary
general of the CNBB (Conferência Nacional dos Bispos Brasileiros—Brazilian
Catholic Bishop National Conference), Dom Odilo Pedro Scherer, said that the
Catholic church is strongly against such abortions.

"Even without a brain,
the fetus deserves the dignity due a human being," he declared, adding
that in such cases the medical profession disregards that dignity and the
fact that there is a life in play. "How can you say it is not alive if
it develops over a nine-month period and is born?" he asks.

Dr. Valdecir Gonçalves
Bueno, of the Brasilia Infant Maternal Hospital, explains that in Brazil abortions
are permitted only in cases of rape and when a mother’s life is at risk. He
says that interrupting a pregnancy when the fetus is anencephalic cannot be
called an abortion. "The child cannot survive," he declared.

Judiciary Reform 

President Luiz Inácio
Lula da Silva defends the reform of the Judiciary in order for the country
to have a more nimble judicial system, accessible to all. According to Lula,
it is in the country’s interest to have a judicial system that is increasingly
strong and capable of responding to society’s demands.

"The government,
democratically elected by the Brazilian population, cannot exempt itself from
the current debate over the need to reform the Judiciary. This constitutes
a basic issue for the country," the President affirmed earlier this year.

The President insisted

upon the adoption of external control, criticized by the president of the
Supreme Court, Minister Maurício Corrêa. According to Lula, the
reform should be centered around three focal points: modernization of judicial
administration, modification of ordinary laws, and Constitutional reform.

Corrêa, however,
responded saying that the creation of an outside body to control the Judicial
branch will not fulfill the expectations of Brazilian society, which desires
greater speed and efficiency from the Judiciary.

According to Corrêa,
the adoption of external control would transform the Judiciary into the only
branch of the federal government with a specific organ to exercise external
supervision over its administrative and financial activities.

The creation of a control
body is one of the items in the Judicial reform proposal being discussed in
the National Congress and considered a priority by the federal government.

The President of the STF
attributes the slowness of judicial decisions to existing procedural laws,
which allow parties various appeals. Corrêa said that the reformulation
of the judicial system should be based much more on modernization of the laws,
so that cases can proceed more rapidly, than on Constitutional changes, although
these are necessary on some points.


Benedito Mendonça works for Agência Brasil (AB), the official
press agency of the Brazilian government. Comments are welcome at lia@radiobras.gov.br.

Translated
from the Portuguese by Allen Bennett.

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