By Matthew Cullinan Hoffman
See introductory story at

SAO PAULO, August 28, 2007 ( How long have you been involved in pro-life and pro-family work? How did you get started?

Julio Severo: My first contact with the pro-life message was through publications from Last Days Ministries, in 1986. Through them I learned about Americans Against Abortion (a branch of Last Days Ministries). Before, I supported abortion in cases of rape and risk of life. Later, after reading the LDM materials, I had a change of mind.

In 1986, I wrote LDM asking for their help because I wanted to close a clandestine abortion clinic in Sao Paulo. But I was afraid, because I did know that there were policemen covering this clinic. LDM could not help me, but they gave me several contacts in the US. One of these pro-life contacts suggested that I get in touch with Fr. Paul Marx [founder of Human Life International], which I did. Fr. Marx put me in touch with Dr. Talmir Rodrigues and Dr. Humberto Vieira. They gave me a lot of guidance, but they could not help me. So I found a special police agency and explained the problem, but what helped most was that a friend of mine, who worked in a police station, asked the police officers to get involved. They were able to close the clinic.

The next year, 1987, I went to the American consulate in São Paulo and delivered Americans Against Abortion leaflets. I did it because I had read, through Americans Against Abortion literature, that America had a horrible abortion law, but that President Reagan was against it. I greatly admired Reagan because of his strong moral stances. When you took this anti-abortion literature to the US consulate, what were you trying to accomplish?

Julio Severo: Well, I was 22 years old and I had read a lot about Americans getting jailed at the front of abortion clinics just because they were peacefully praying. I did not understand it. America had much more democracy than Brazil, but Brazil had never jailed pro-life people. This was unthinkable.

I heard about cases where American pro-lifers were jailed just because they had distributed pro-life literature and I decided to get involved in this battle. Within the consulate, I received an order to stop my activities and an American official told me that I should deliver to her all my pro-life leaflets. I told her that if she took them I was going to get in touch with Brazilian TV channels, and she did not take them from me. I told her that even though she hindered me from distributing them within the consulate, I was going immediately to distribute on the sidewalk of the consulate, because that place was Brazilian territory, and in Brazil abortion was illegal. They respected my decision, even though some American officials were near. I distributed them to all people entering the consulate. you find it ironic that you began this battle fighting against legal abortion in the USA, and now you are fighting against US-based organizations in Brazil who are attempting to expand legal abortion in your country?

Julio Severo: Yes. My two first great battles were: to close a clandestine abortion clinic and help and sympathize with all my pro-life brothers and sisters who were getting jailed in America. That is why I decided to distribute pro-life leaflets in the US consulate. It was also a frightening experience, because in the next days a dark car was near my house in a very suspicious way!! Did anything happen with regard to the car?

Julio Severo:It came sometimes, but some time later it did not come back. Were they watching me? Today I think: could my name be on some U.S. black list? so, you began your pro-life work in a political environment that was very different from the one that you have today in Brazil, correct?

Julio Severo:Oh, yes! I do not remember any pro-abortion activities. Abortion was illegal in almost all circumstances, and the public was strongly against it?

Julio Severo:Yes! The Brazilian people were completely against it, but I believe popular soap operas were slightly undermining moral and religious stances. Soap operas were and are extremely popular in Brazil. Brazil at that time was much, much different from the current Brazil. has Brazil changed since the late 1980s with regard to human life issues?

Julio Severo:The great difference is that today there are many organized and coordinated efforts and NGOs promoting abortion. Moreover, the current Brazilian government supports abortion. No past Brazilian government has supported abortion. has the culture changed? Are Brazilians as opposed to abortion today as they were in the 1980s?

Julio Severo: There is a survey showing that most Brazilians do not want abortion decriminalization. Yet, in the past Brazilians could not even hear and see support for abortion on TV and radio. Today they tolerate this, but are against abortion. Would you say, then, that the media has changed, but the culture has changed less?

Julio Severo: I would say that the liberal media could not freely reveal its views on abortion, but today it does it freely. The public has been molded by it. This is my perception. I remember that in early 1990 Rede Globo, the biggest TV channel in Brazil, was given an award because its soap operas were indoctrinating the public with family planning ideals. Who gave them the award? Do you remember?

Julio Severo: Yes, the United Nations. I have this UN document in some place of my things. Let’s go back to the issue of NGOs and other organizations involved in promoting abortion in Brazil. Generally, from where are these organizations receiving their support, and where are they based?

Julio Severo: In early 1990, I visited the UNFPA office in Brazil, and I saw that they had a book showing all international groups funding many anti-life groups in Brazil. Most of these groups were based in America. Yet, through Fr. Paul Marx, I already knew that Brazil and other Third World countries were being heavily assaulted by the investments from anti-life groups in America, Canada and Europe. Yearly, I visited the UNFPA office in Brazil. What are the principle struggles that pro-life people are involved in and have been involved from the time when you began your work in the late 80s, to today?

Julio Severo: In the late 80s, I saw only Catholics in the pro-life movement, and their focus was abortion. In the 90s, the pro-life movement was still Catholic, and in the mid 90s they added sex education to the important items on the pro-life agenda. Through their kind assistance I came to know the Brazilian Congress and I learned how to promote the pro-life principles and values there. I am specially indebted to Dr. Humberto Vieia, the president of Providafamilia [Pro-Life and Family].

More recently, evangelicals entered in the battles, not only because of abortion, but also because of the furious advance of the gay movement. Interestingly, Catholics until very recently did not want to get involved in the fight against the gay agenda, because they feared that it could in some way harm their focus on abortion. But now they are increasingly conscious that the anti-life forces are composed by pro-abortion and gay militants, This is a very recent change, though. As you have seen, I have struggled to awaken people about the gay agenda since 1998.

Part II