UN CEDAW Committee Blasts Brazil for Not Pushing Abortion

International   |   Stefano Gennarini, J.D.   |   Jun 14, 2012   |   3:49PM   |   New York, NY

New York, NY (CFAM/LifeNews) — The CEDAW Committee, charged with monitoring the implementation of the Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), has warned Brazil that its democratic lawmaking process is a threat to “sexual and reproductive rights,” and the Committee continues to insist that illegal abortion has a negative impact on maternal mortality.

In its Concluding Observations, at the end of the consideration of the Brazilian report in Geneva in March, the Committee said it “regrets that women who undergo illegal abortions continue to face criminal sanctions in the State party and that women’s enjoyment of sexual and reproductive health and rights is being jeopardized by a number of bills under consideration in the National Congress, such as Bill No. 478/2008 (Estatuto Nascituro).”

It is not the first time that the Committee has told delegations that their country’s culture, laws and lawmaking processes are not up to par because of restrictions on abortion. It has done so over one hundred times. What is novel is the Committee pronouncing itself on legislation that has not yet been adopted, in a country with a well-established democratic system.

The Committee is insistent that women should have access to abortion notwithstanding measures set in place by the Brazilian government to reduce maternal and child mortality. In its report, Brazil mentioned a new program called Rede Cegonha (Stork Network) that is aimed at providing maternal and neonatal care to women with low incomes.

The Committee brushed aside this effort because “it is concerned that this program might not sufficiently address all causes of maternal mortality as it merely focuses on care services for pregnant women.” The Committee is evidently referring to what abortion advocates call “unsafe abortion.” The first ever epidemiological study of the effect of illegal abortion on maternal mortality has shown there is no proof that legalizing abortion reduces overall maternal mortality.

The CEDAW Committee is following the lead of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navanethem Pillay, whose office provides logistical support to the whole UN human rights system. In a recent talk she suggested plainly that from a human rights perspective abortion and contraception are more important than maternal and neonatal health care.

“While interventions focused on the health aspects of maternal mortality may concentrate on the quality of care for pregnant women, a human rights analysis requires us to examine whether women have a choice in deciding to become pregnant in the first place, or the choice to seek the care that they require without having to obtain permission from male relatives,” Pillay said.

Other comments by the Committee during this last session included references to women and adolescents who are victims “because of conservative cultural patterns,” gaps in the legislations on issues like “genetic developments, technological advances and sexual-orientation,” and a comment on the Brazilian Judiciary describing how “it reproduces social stereotypes with a predominantly patriarchal attribution of social roles.”

LifeNews.com Note: Stefano Gennarini, J.D., writes for the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute. This article originally appeared in the pro-life group’s Turtle Bay and Beyond publication and is used with permission.