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  • Brazilian women demonstrating in favor of legalized abortion.

    Brazilian women demonstrating in favor of legalized abortion. | Photo: AFP

The criminalization of abortion disproportionately affects poor and marginalized women, who are facing increasingly restricted access to private services.

Brazilian women's groups will march next week to protest against ongoing threats to reproductive rights posed by President Michel Temer’s right-wing administration.

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The announcement follows approval by a lower-chamber commission of an amendment that would outlaw abortion in all cases. Currently, abortion is legal if it threatens the mother's life, and in instances of rape.

“Eighteen men cannot decide the lives of women, and abortion in the case of a rape cannot become a crime,” the Front Against the Criminalization of Women and for the Legalization of Abortion stated on Facebook Thursday, simultaneously convoking demonstrations across the country.

Amendment 181 of the Constitution, approved in the legislative commission, considers that life begins as soon as the fetus is conceived. This prohibits abortion even when the pregnancy puts the mother's life in danger; is the result of a rape, or in the event the fetus is deformed.

Women's rights groups have accused lawmakers of disguising the full abortion ban as a “Trojan horse” within a proposal that claims to improve mothers' rights in the case of premature births. The draft was introduced in Congress by a group of evangelist legislators.

Until now, abortion has been outlawed in Brazil except in cases of rape or risk to the woman’s life. Women who seek an abortion outside such circumstances can face up to three years in jail.

In Latin America, the debate about abortion laws surged last year in light of the suspected link between the outbreak of the Zika virus and the rise of the birth defect known as microcephaly at the epicenter of the epidemic in Brazil.

Brazil’s unelected President Michel Temer, however, has made moves to roll back women’s rights across the country. Along with appointing an all-male cabinet, one of Temer’s first moves as interim president was to strip the Secretariat of Policies for Women of ministerial status. He also put a staunch anti-abortion politician, Fatima Pelaes, in charge of the secretariat.


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