Hundreds of women in Brazil marched in the streets of Rio de Janeiro Friday to demand authorities take steps to decriminalize abortion and allow women to have safe access to them.
“The rich have abortions, the poor die,” one protester's sign said.
“A woman should not be forced to be a mother,” Tina Tigri, a producer of cultural events who has two children and participated in the protest said. “We just want it (abortion) to be legal, safe, in a hospital.”
According to experts, between 400,000 and 800,000 women have abortions every year in Brazil, the vast majority of them, however, take place under unsafe conditions exacerbated by the procedures illegality.
Friday's march, which many believe was inspired by the women’s movement in Argentina where the lower chamber of Congress approved a bill legalizing elective abortions, is one of many seen across Latin America and the Caribbean in recent weeks.
Supporters of the women's and reproductive rights weren't; however, the only ones inspired by the success of the Argentine women's movement. On June 19, anti-choice activists gathered in front of the Congress, in Brasilia, to reject abortion and what they have called “judicial activism.” The action was in response to a debate in front of the country's Supreme Court, which is reviewing a request by the Socialism and Freedom Party to invalidate article 124 and 126 of the penal code, which criminalizes abortion.
The movement Brazil Without Abortion has argued Congress, and not the courts, should legislate. They are also seeking to pass an amendment to the Brazilian constitution that would "defend life at conception."
Brazil like most of Latin America has a large population of Catholics, and a growing population of Evangelical Christians, many persons from both groups oppose the decriminalization of abortions.
According to pro-choice activists, the debate is not on state support for abortions but rather on the need to recognize a public health problem caused by the criminalization of abortion.
Currently, abortions are legal in Brazil only when the mother’s life is in danger, in cases of rape, and when the fetus has anencephaly. On August 6 Brazil’s Supreme Court will hold a public hearing to discuss the decriminalization of abortion within the first trimester.