Feminists in Brazil mobilize against bill that equates abortion with murder

The Chamber of Deputies surprised many by pushing forward the discussion on a bill that equates abortion with murder and prohibits abortion even in cases of rape

June 14, 2024 by Peoples Dispatch
Abortion rights demonstrators mobilize in Brasília (Photo: Matheus Alves / Mídia NINJA)

On Wednesday, June 12, Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies approved the urgent discussion of a bill that equates abortion with murder. Officially named Bill 1904/2024, it will now be voted on by the plenary of the Chamber of Deputies, without first going through the relevant committees.

The bill could result in prison sentences as long as 20 years for both those who administer abortions, and women who receive abortions after 22 weeks of pregnancy.

The Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, Arthur Lira, of the Progressive Party, put the matter on the agenda without informing the federal deputies and without announcing the bill’s number. He asked Pastor Henrique Vieira of the left-wing Socialism and Freedom Party about the position of party members on the matter under consideration, but he did not respond. Lira considered the urgency of the matter approved in symbolic voting, in which each deputy’s vote on the electronic panel isn’t recorded, which lasted just 23 seconds. In general, symbolic voting occurs when there is already agreement among parliamentarians on the matter on the agenda.

The bill adds articles to the Penal Code to make the penalties for simple homicide the same as those for abortions carried out after 22 weeks of gestation, even in cases where the practice is legally allowed. The text also prohibits abortion even in cases of pregnancy resulting from rape, if there is fetal viability.  

At the time of the vote, there was no reaction in the plenary. On social media, however, members of the progressive spectrum attacked what they called Lira’s “maneuver”.

“Lira has just struck a blow against women’s rights. He approved an emergency request without even announcing the vote. The request allows voting on the bill that forces girls and women who suffer sexual violence to have the child of a rapist,” wrote Natália Bonavides of the Workers’ Party.

Congresswoman Sâmia Bomfim of the Socialism and Freedom Party also spoke out on social media. “Using a maneuver, Lira approved the urgency of the Child Pregnancy Bill, so the bill can go to a voting at any time in the plenary,” she posted.

The Nem Presa Nem Morta (Either Jailed nor Killed, in a rough translation) Campaign, which defends the decriminalization of abortion in the country, called Lira’s stance “cowardly.”

The National Front for the Legalization of Abortion described the urgent approval as “dishonest and undemocratic.”

Protesters across Brazil denounce “Child Pregnancy Bill”

On Thursday night, many Brazilian cities saw feminist protests against Bill 1904/2024, dubbed the Child Pregnancy Bill for the impact it could have on young girls who are victims of sexual violence.

The Front Against the Criminalization of Women and For the Legalization of Abortion led protests in 17 Brazilian cities and engaged in mobilizations in many other places.

Hundreds gathered at the Republic’s National Museum in Brasília for the protest. According to Thaísa Magalhães, Women’s Secretary of Brazil’s Central Workers’ Union of the Federal District (CUT-DF, in Portuguese), the protests show that women listened to the call of many feminist and social organizations. “Women expressed their solidarity with the urgency of going to the streets to say no to the Child Pregnancy Bill,” said Thaíssa.

According to Brazilian pedagogue Leila Rebouças, the discussion of this agenda in the Chamber of Deputies represents a negotiation over women’s bodies. She also points out that in election years, such as 2024, when municipal elections will be held, conservative agendas are, once again, debated in Congress. “This is yet another strategy to put these agendas forward to negotiate votes,” she said.

In São Paulo, the demonstration took place at the São Paulo Museum of Art (MASP, in Portuguese) on Paulista Avenue, and brought together hundreds of demonstrators. According to Ana Paula, an activist with the National Front Against the Criminalization of Women and For the Legalization of Abortion, the demonstrations are women’s response to the attack on a right already legally guaranteed.

“It was a moment of revolt for women and all pregnant women about the urgency for the Bill 1904/2024, which was done without any decent consultation with parliament, because it wasn’t even announced. In 23 seconds, Lira has ruined the lives of thousands of girls and women who have access to a legal right guaranteed by the Penal Code, which dates back to 1940: abortion in cases of sexual violence and risk to life. This is truly revolting and led to this movement,” she says.

At Cinelândia, downtown Rio de Janeiro, people gathered to defend the right to legal abortion.

This article was based on two reports originally published in Brasil de Fato.