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April 4, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Brazil's Federal Medical Council (CFM), a quasi-governmental organization which controls the licensing of all the nation's medical professionals, has sparked outrage from pro-life parliamentarians and activists by declaring itself in favor of eliminating criminal penalties for abortions during the first trimester of pregnancy, as well as in rape and incest cases up to the moment of birth.

The CFM's surprise declaration, which claims that the organization is not “favorable to abortion but rather the autonomy of women and doctors,” runs contrary to the sentiments of a strong majority of Brazilians.

Some critics have accused the group of misrepresenting the thinking of its own members.

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According to the CFM, Brazil's current restrictions on the killing of the unborn “are inconsistent with humanistic and humanitarian obligations, contrary to social responsibility and to international treaties signed by the Brazilian government.” It also asserts that in 2001 there were 243,000 women who sought post-abortion treatment in medical facilities, echoing the International Planned Parenthood Federation's claim that legalizing abortion is necessary to protect public health.

Although the organization admits that “one should keep in mind that the protection of human beings stands out as an aprioristic moral and ethical objective,” nonetheless “such parameters can't be adequately defined without the aid of principles of autonomy, which teach reverence for persons, for their opinions and beliefs.”

The CFM also claims that the purpose of its proposal “IS NOT TO DECRIMINALIZE ABORTION” (emphasis in original), assuring the public that “the crime of abortion will continue to exist, and there will only be the creation of other conditions for excluding illegality.”

Currently, abortion is illegal in Brazil in all cases but does not carry a criminal penalty in cases of rape or danger to the life of the mother. Under the CFM's plan, the vast majority of abortions would be decriminalized.

The CFM's newly formulated pro-abortion position appears to be timed to support a push in the National Congress to insert the decriminalization of abortion into the country's criminal code reform, currently being undertaken by legislators.

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Although it is unpopular with Brazil's strongly pro-life citizenry, the nation's ruling party, the Brazilian Worker's Party, generally supports decriminalization.

Pro-life legislators in the Brazilian National Congress were quick to respond.

Senator Magno Malta, who leads the Parliamentary Front of the Defense of the Family protested that “this decision doesn't have the agreement of a significant number of doctors.” He said, “if the decision were made in a medical congress, I believe that it wouldn't have had great support, because we have received various emails from doctors opposing the decision.”

Dimas Lara Barbosa, the Catholic Archbishop of Campo Grande and former president of the National Conference of Brazilian Bishops, also denounced the decision. “We aren't against women having a choice,” he recently told the Brazilian press. “We don't deny them the right to their own bodies. But the fetus is a human life that merely inhabits the body of the woman, and so she doesn't have the right to deny it life.”

He also noted, in contrast to the CFM's professed concern about unsafe abortions, that “no one mentions that thousands of women who have surgical abortions go for psychological and psychiatric treatment for the trauma of abortion.”

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