Thousands of abortion activists protested Monday in the streets of Brazil, just days after a legislative committee voted to make abortions illegal in all cases.
With some carrying children in their arms, the pro-abortion protesters chanted, “Our bodies are ours!” and demanded to be allowed to abort their unborn babies, the AP reports. Protests were held in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.
Protesters became violent outside the state legislature in Rio, prompting police to fire tear gas into the crowd; but news reports do not provide details about the nature of the violence or the arrests, if any.
In Brazil, abortion is legal in cases involving rape, incest and risks to the mother’s life; the country’s high court also ruled in 2012 that unborn babies with certain types of fatal anomalies also may be aborted, according to the report.
Less than a week ago, a Brazilian legislative committee overwhelmingly passed a bill to protect unborn babies from abortion in all cases. To become part of the constitution, the bill must pass both congressional bodies by a two-thirds majority.
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“To defend abortion, like it or not, is a Satanic, diabolical and destructive act,” Evangelical Congressman Pastor Eurico told the committee Nov. 8 as he showed a model of a 12-week unborn baby.
Reuters speculated that the legislation may have a chance of passing: “The measure could clear those hurdles as part of a trade-off for other legislation the governing coalition seeks to pass, such as pension reform needed to plug a gaping budget deficit.”
But Rodrigo Maia, the speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, said his chamber will not pass a bill unless it includes an exception for rape, the Daily Mail reports.
Some protesters came out to support the current law, while others called on the government to legalize abortion on demand in Brazil. Some held signs in Rio that said “Secular uterus” and “I don’t deserve to bear the child of my rapist,” according to reports.
Abortion activists have been pushing Brazil to legalize abortion on demand for years. They claim as many as 400,000 abortions are performed annually in Brazil, many in illegal, unsafe environments; and making abortion widely legal would keep women safe.
In 2016, the country saw a concerted effort to push abortion during the zika virus scare. The virus was linked to microcephaly and other health problems in unborn babies.
But a poll at the time by the Datafolha Institute in Brazil found that 58 percent of Brazilians reject abortion in cases where pregnant women are infected with the Zika virus, according to the Catholic News Agency. According to the poll, 32 percent think the woman should be allowed to have an abortion and 10 percent had no opinion.
Brazilians also rejected abortion in cases where the unborn baby is diagnosed with microcephaly, with 51 percent opposed and 39 percent in favor, according to the poll.