It is not surprising that the issue of abortion, sexuality, and Christian faith is guiding the Brazilian electoral debate. The population’s concern with this issue stems from two facts: on one side, decades of decline in the moral values of society – resulting in corruption, family disintegration, spreading drug use, teen pregnancy, spousal abandonment, the prevalence of wealth as a central objective and the absolute valorization of consumer goods – all make the population, disoriented by the lack of values, seek shelter in religiosity.
On the other side, in the last eight years ideological apathy has caused the political parties to appear similar; the debate, to lack new ideas; and the candidates, to exhibit little difference among themselves.
Debate centers on the old issues: how to grow, and not what sort of growth; whether to privatize or nationalize the economy, and not how to give a public-interest character all economic activity, whether state or private; how to construct more technical schools, and not how to bring about a revolution in education; who will distribute the most Bolsa Família, and not who will render this cash payment to poor families unnecessary.
In this crisis of values and in that paucity of ideas, abortion has become a central issue, although it has nothing to do with the office of President of the Republic. This issue, moreover, is limited to defending the life of the defenseless embryo; it does not touch upon the matter of the right to life of those who have already been born but who are abandoned by society and by the politicians society elects.
In order to be taken seriously, those who defend the embryo’s right to life must also defend the right to life of that baby aborted right after birth through the lack of an incubator that would serve as a bridge between the mother’s belly and the real world in which her child is going to breathe.
But Brazil abandons many of its newborns in hospitals without an intensive therapy unit for babies, forcing the doctor to choose which baby will have the chance to life and which will be abandoned to die, thus causing a post-birth abortion.
A newborn is even more helpless than an embryo in its mother’s belly, but we do not observe those who oppose the decriminalization of abortion also speaking in favor of viewing as criminals those responsible for the abortion stemming from the abandonment of the public maternity hospitals.
The electoral debate showed a strong movement against those abortions caused by mothers before birth, but there is no movement against those responsible for the fact that, every day, loving mothers lose their children for lack of neonatal medical attention.
An abortion also occurs when a child dies from malnutrition or the lack of medicine. Twenty-five years after the restoration of democracy, after the return of economic growth, of monetary stability and of the affirmation of Brazil in the world scene, after 16 years of social-democratic governments, thousands of children die in Brazil for lack of food and medicine, their lives cut short, aborted.
Their abortionists are neither doctors nor the babies’ mothers. Rather they are the elected officials and all of us, their voters and passive observers, when we absent ourselves from their right to life, while at the same time we commemorate the GDP, the World Cup, the Olympics, the bullet train, bridges, highways, hydroelectric projects.
Not offering quality schooling to every child is also an abortion.
An animal only needs food and air. It is born only once, when it exits its mother’s belly or hatches from the egg where it has gestated.
People are born twice: when they exit the womb and when they enter school.
Not entering school is having one’s future interrupted, aborted. In Brazil, children are aborted every minute when they abandon school before finishing, as if they were being expelled from the maternal uterus before nine months of pregnancy. But there is no movement against that abortion.
Brazil is a country that is debating the candidates’ positions about pre-birth abortion, an issue that does not even depend upon the president. It is forgetting to debate the care of children after they are born, aborting them through lack of attention, medicine, food, school.
And by aborting so many children, with the complicit silence of everyone, including the lay and religious leaders, we are interrupting the future of Brazil.
Cristovam Buarque is a professor at the University of Brasília and a PDT senator for the Federal District. You can visit his website at www.cristovam.org.br/portal2/, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SEN_CRISTOVAM and write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
New translations of his works of fiction The Subterranean Gods and Astricia are now available on Amazon.com.
Translated from the Portuguese by Linda Jerome (LinJerome@cs.com).