Soccer fans around the world will be glued to their screens for the next month as the World Cup began this past week. Since it is being hosted in Brazil, some Interim staff thought it might be interesting to look into pro-life news there. A quick search revealed some interesting legal situations involving preborn children. (All information is taken from a translated version of Brazil’s Criminal Code, unless otherwise noted.)

For the most part, abortion is illegal. Exceptions are made for cases of rape or danger to the mother’s life. 

Though this is not a “perfect” pro-life law, it is much more respectful of the preborn child’s right to life than Canada’s legal vacuum. We have a lot of work to do before we reach this point. On the other hand, other Latin American countries such as Chile, El Salvador, and Nicaragua, completely ban abortion.

 “Inducing” the procedure oneself, or having one performed with a woman’s consent, may result in a one to three-year prison term for the woman.

Personally, I think this goes a bit too far. Though I see the merits of applying the same penalties to the unjust killing of a preborn person as we do to a born person, circumstances such as poverty or mental health must differentiate the majority of abortions from ruthless killing for its own sake in terms of moral culpability. As Frederica Mathewes-Green has written, “no one wants an abortion as she wants an ice-cream cone or a Porsche. She wants an abortion as an animal, caught in a trap, wants to gnaw off its own leg.”

Pro-lifers are divided on how or even whether to punish women who have abortions; those who carry out an abortion however, should know what they are doing (more about that below).

Alternate punishments may include community service or a charitable donation, but I have not been able to find a source confirming this. I find those reasonable.

For the ‘third party”, or medical personnel, there are two possible punishments. If the woman consented to the abortion, the provider could be jailed for one to four years. If she did not consent, the sentence could be from three to ten years. 

There are no available statistics to whether medical personnel are being prosecuted for breaking Brazil’s law that ostensibly limits abortion. The majority must operate “under they table,” so to speak. Until they are ready for a ministry such as Abby Johnson’s “And Then There Were None,” I would argue that the majority of them are culpable and know exactly what they are doing. Committing an abortion without consent seems like a crime that deserves more than three years.

The preceding penalties increase by a third if “the mother suffers bodily injury of a serious nature” as a result of abortion. They double if she dies from complications.

This makes sense, and it is something that countries that have permissive abortion regimes should follow. For the sake of Canadian and American women who have been in a situation similar to Tonya Reaves, a regulation like this needs to become law.

In 2004, an exception was made to allow abortion in cases of anencephaly, a condition that causes incomplete or malformed development of the brain so that the child cannot survive long after birth. One of the judges involved, Marco Aurélio, stated that “babies with anencephaly would never become a person” and implied that they were “potential life.”

(Source: Global Post)  

If a medical condition meant that your child would have a shorter lifespan, would you not want to spend more time with her instead of less? If fully-functioning brains are what make us valuable and human, wouldn’t all of us be considered “potential life” at some point? This is a dangerous exception that makes judgement calls about lives that are not worth living.

Embryonic stem cell research was permitted in a 2008 court case.

(Source: Conectas)

Isn’t this determining a preborn child’s value based on her location – the womb vs. a petri dish? At least they have not, to my knowledge, “progressed” to the horror hinted at by a University of Toronto bioethics center in 1995. Embryonic stem cell research kills a tiny, human being, for utilitarian reasons.