RIO DE JANEIRO, July 15, 2004 ( – Brazil expanded its abortion law July 1, allowing the abortion of anencephalic children – children with no brain. Abortion is already legal in Brazil for women whose pregnancy is the result of rape, or if a pregnancy endangers the mother’s life.  Supreme Court justice Marco Aurelio de Mello said that forcing women to carry their anencephalic children to term would “[damage] their moral and psychological integrity,” because the chance of anencephalic children surviving more than a few minutes after birth was a “medical impossibility.”

The decision came despite strong criticism from the Brazilian bishops’ conference (CNBB). The CNBB wants the decision, made by a single judge, overturned by either Supreme Court president Nelson Jobim or when the entire panel of 11 judges resumes sitting in August.  Attorney-General Claudio Fonteles also opposed the decision. If “there is life within the womb,” he said, it is not legal to kill it.  The bishops emphasized that the life of an unborn child “must be respected regardless of the phase or condition in which it is found.”

Humberto Vieira, a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life and president of Brazil’s Pro-Life and Pro-Family Association, told the Zenit news agency that “This is a dangerous precedent, because it opens the way to other types of abortion, for example, of the physically or mentally disabled . . .”

Vieira also argued that the physical and psychological consequences that abortion has on women far outweighs “those of gestating an anencephalic fetus.”

Vieira said that the decision to allow abortion of anencephalic children was based on “false arguments” presented by medical experts, whose opinions were “unfounded.”  Dr. John Shea, Medical consultant to Campaign Life Coalition Canada told that if this law passes in Brazil, it will only make it easier for similar legislation allowing the destruction of children with disabilities like Down’s syndrome. Dr. Shea said that, unlike Down’s syndrome, anencephaly “doesn’t cost the government a dime,” because the child doesn’t survive. But the costs involved in supporting a child with disabilities for life, like in Down’s, he argued, may tip the balance in favour of abortion, as has happened in Canada, Europe, and the US for over 30 years.  Read the Zenit interview with Humberto Vieira:   Read the moving story of parents who allowed their anencephalic child to live, “Charlotte’s brave fight,” at:,5478,9962997%255E2862,00.html   tv


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