Brazil ruling that blocks abortions draws fire

The World

October 22, 2004|By KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil - Feminists, health-care providers and government-sector unions in Brazil yesterday attacked a court ruling that abruptly ended abortion on demand in cases where it is known a fetus is developing with grave abnormalities.

Brazil's Supreme Federal Tribunal, the country's highest court, voted 7-4 Wednesday to end the practice, which had been permitted in Brazil since July. The debate on the issue was so contentious that two justices challenged each other to step outside the courtroom for a fight.

Brazil, the world's most populous Roman Catholic nation, forbids abortion except in cases of rape and severe danger to the woman's life; it leaves that determination to judges.

In July, an unusual order issued by a member of the Supreme Federal Tribunal allowed women to abort if they carry fetuses with anencephaly.

Fetuses with the rare condition, about 650 a year in Brazil, don't develop brain stems or most of their brains. The disorder has a 100 percent fatality rate.

Wednesday, the court determined that abortion was too controversial to be decided in an order from a lone justice.

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