Abortion To Be Classified As Murder? Brazil Approves Urgency Of Bill

On June 12, Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies approved the urgent consideration of Bill 1904/2024, which controversially equates abortion with homicide.

Oshi Saxena
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Image Credit - Igor Fernandes

On June 12, Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies approved the urgent consideration of Bill 1904/2024, which controversially equates abortion with homicide. The decision, spearheaded by Arthur Lira, Speaker of the Chamber and member of the Progressive Party, bypassed standard procedures by avoiding the relevant committees and moving directly to a plenary vote. The expedited process, executed without prior notification to federal deputies or the announcement of the bill's number, has sparked criticism and backlash.


The Legislative Context

Brazil's legal framework currently allows abortion in very limited circumstances, such as cases of rape, incest, or when the mother's life is at risk. The new bill, however, proposes a radical shift by eliminating these exceptions and treating any abortion as a criminal act equivalent to homicide. This move aligns with the views of conservative and religious groups in Brazil who believe that life begins at conception and that abortion is morally and ethically wrong.

Bill 1904/2024 seeks to amend the Brazilian Penal Code by aligning the penalties for abortions performed after 22 weeks of gestation with those for simple homicide, even under circumstances currently deemed legally permissible. Furthermore, the bill aims to prohibit abortions in cases of pregnancies resulting from rape, provided the fetus is viable.

Unconventional Voting Method

The urgency of the bill was confirmed through a symbolic vote, a method typically employed when there is presumed consensus among parliamentarians. This specific vote, which lasted a mere 23 seconds, did not record individual deputies' positions on the electronic panel. Arthur Lira initiated this vote after consulting Pastor Henrique Vieira from the Socialism and Freedom Party, who did not provide a definitive stance from his party members.

On social media, however, members of the progressive spectrum criticised Lira's "manoeuvre." Natália Bonavides, a congresswoman from the Workers’ Party, condemned Lira’s manoeuvre, accusing him of undermining women's rights through a surreptitious and undemocratic process, "Lira has just struck a blow to women's rights." He approved an emergency request without even announcing the vote. Natália Bastos Bonavides (Workers' Party) said, "The request allows voting on the bill that forces girls and women who suffered sexual violence to have the child of a rapist."


Similarly, Sâmia Bomfim from the Socialism and Freedom Party decried the procedural tactics employed by Lira, "Using a manoeuvre, Lira approved the urgency of the Child Pregnancy Bill, so the bill can go to a vote at any time in the plenary."

The National Front for the Legalisation of  Abortion called the rushed approval "dishonest and undemocratic."

Societal and Legal Impact

Brazil is predominantly Catholic, and the Church's influence is profound in shaping public opinion and policy. The bill reflects the Church's teachings on the sanctity of life and its opposition to abortion under any circumstances. However, it also brings to light the significant divide between conservative values and the growing movement advocating for women's rights and reproductive freedom.

If implemented, this bill would represent a fundamental shift in Brazilian law, with far-reaching implications for women and medical professionals. The classification of abortion as homicide could end up in serious legal consequences for those involved in performing or seeking abortions, such as lengthy prison sentences and hefty fines, thereby criminalising a medical procedure that is currently legal under specific circumstances.

Ethical and Moral Considerations


The ethical debate surrounding abortion in Brazil is also quite complex. Proponents of the law argue from a moral standpoint, claiming that the protection of foetal life is vital and that abortion includes the taking of an innocent life. They feel that comparing abortion with homicide promotes the value of life at all stages and protects society's moral integrity.

On the other side, opponents of the measure stress the importance of women's autonomy and the right to make informed reproductive health decisions. They say that establishing such strict regulations breaches women's rights and overlooks the diverse and often challenging situations that lead to the decision to seek an abortion. 

Conservative and religious groups have expressed strong support for the measure, holding rallies and campaigns to guarantee its passage. They argue that the bill is in line with Brazilian cultural and religious values and constitutes a key step towards protecting the sanctity of life.

Women's rights activists and progressive organisations, on the other hand, have mobilised to oppose the bill, citing the potential risks and injustices it could lead to. They've staged protests, launched social media campaigns, and filed legal challenges to fight what they regard as a retrograde and harmful policy.

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