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Brazil Church leaders speak against decriminalisation of abortion

Young people keep vigil in front of Brazil's Supreme Court (Getty Images)

Representatives of the Church in Brazil have addressed the country’s Supreme Court to argue against the decriminalisation of abortion.

Reiterating the Catholic Church’s teaching “in the defence of life from its conception until its natural death,” Bishop Ricardo Hoerpes of Rio Grande said that the issue was not for the court to decide.

“How will the Supreme Court explain a capital punishment sentence of an innocent, defenceless human being to justify our incapacity in producing adequate public policies when it comes to women’s reproductive rights?” the bishop asked the court, which was preparing whether to decide whether to decriminalise abortion.

A foetus cannot be addressed as another human body part, he said.

“It looks like we’re talking about a gallbladder, a kidney, or an appendix that we need to extirpate, which is causing women to die. The focus is wrong,” Bishop Hoerpes said to a room full spectators.

The bishop also stressed that the focus should be on the life of the baby.

“The right to life is the most fundamental of rights and, therefore, more than any other, must be protected. It is a right intrinsic to the human condition and not a concession of the state. The powers of the republic have an obligation to guarantee and defend it,” he said.

Bishop Hoerpes argued that the issue should be debated by the people’s representatives, in Congress, and not in a court of law.

The other Catholic representative to speak before the justices, Father Jose Eduardo de Oliveira e Silva, complained that many more representatives advocating for the decriminalisation of abortion had spoken to the court than people wanting to preserve life.

“This hearing lends itself only to legitimise the activism of this court,” he said. “It is pretending to listen to the parts, but in reality, is only legitimising the (decriminalisation) that will come next.”

The bishops’ conference called on parishes to ring church bells last Thursday to draw attention to the issue. At the foot of Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer, an iconic symbol of the Church’s importance in Brazil, Cardinal Orani Joao Tempesta of San Sebastian of Rio de Janeiro spoke to a group of pro-life supporters.

“From the height of the Corcovado, at the feet of the Redeemer, together, we want to draw the attention of the entire society to the importance of life,” Cardinal Tempesta said. “We want the bells that ring not only in Rio, but throughout Brazil, to draw attention to this important moment in our history, with the aim of guaranteeing the inviolability of the right to life.”

Brazil has one of the strongest abortion laws in the world. It allows abortion only when the unborn child is encephalitic, the pregnancy occurred because of rape, or the mother’s life is at risk.

After Monday’s hearing, the Supreme Court is expected to issue its decision in about 10 days.

The two-day hearing before the Brazilian court comes days before legislators in Argentina, Pope Francis’ homeland, were expected to vote on a bill that would reduce abortion restrictions.