Brazil: Abortion at the Heart of the 2022 Presidential Election

April 08, 2022
Brazil’s Presidential Palace

In Brazil, abortion has been inserted into the electoral campaign since the former head of state, a candidate once again despite numerous accusations of corruption leveled against him, declared himself in favor of the legalization of the voluntary interruption of pregnancy (IVG), i.e., abortion.

Brazil, led by national-conservative President Jair Bolsonaro, and where the conservative Catholic and Evangelical churches are particularly powerful, allows abortion only in cases of rape, when a woman’s life is in danger, or serious malformations of the fetus.

Exceptions against which the religious right is fighting. Since August 2020, the regulations on the voluntary termination of pregnancy (abortion) have even been tightened in cases of pregnancies as a result of rape.

From now on, for an abortion to be carried out, a complaint must have been previously filed with the police and the circumstances of the alleged violence described in detail. In such cases, medical staff are obliged to offer the woman the opportunity to see the embryo or the fetus by ultrasound.

Even if it is only supported by 17% of the Brazilian population, the legalization of abortion has become a social issue, just over six months before the general elections to be held in the country on October 2, 2022, elections which will determine the new Head of State, as well as the members of Congress.

Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, supported by the left, is a candidate for the succession of Jair Bolsonaro, and has made the legalization of abortion one of his battle horses: “I, Lula, father of five children, I am against abortion and I always have been in my private capacity. But, as head of state, I will have to treat the issue as a public health problem.…”

“Many people say they are against abortion, who run to other countries to perform it discreetly, while at the same time women are dying in the streets,” he said last March 24, adding, leaving no room for ambiguity, that “it is up to the State to give these women the right to decent medical treatment.”

Remarks that made the Archbishop of Sao Paulo react, describing the interview with the former Brazilian president as “unfortunate,” and recalling that “abortion, whether practiced clandestinely or with the blessing of the state, always comes down to causing the loss of human life.”

A position that contrasts with the silence of the episcopate, since the Catholic news agency ACI, having asked the Brazilian Bishops' Conference for its official reaction to the remarks made by Luiz Lula, was told that the he episcopate was not “in the habit of commenting on the speeches of the candidates.”

A recent poll in the country asking for whom people would vote if the election were held that day, estimates that Luiz Lula, supported by the Workers' Party, is currently leading with a 43%  favorable opinion, followed by some distance by Jair Bolsonaro, who would not gather more than 29% of the vote: a tour de force for the former president who succeeded in making people forget the numerous accusations of corruption and money laundering which made the headlines in the media a few years ago.

The coming months will tell if Brazilians manage to wake up from their amnesia to defend one of the most elementary natural rights, that of life, in one of the countries where Catholicism is most established in the world.