Brazilian Vice President Hamilton Mourão publicly supported a woman’s right to decide to have an abortion in an interview published today in O Globo.
Mourão raised the issue of abortion after being asked a question about gender, explaining that when a woman or girl is pregnant from rape or cannot care for a child, “…then perhaps the woman should be free to come and say, ‘I need to have an abortion.’” He clarified that it was his opinion as a citizen, and not as a member of the government, that abortion is “a personal decision.”
Abortion is illegal in Brazil except in cases of rape, when necessary to save a woman’s life, or when the fetus suffers from anencephaly – a fatal congenital brain disorder. Many women and girls have no choice but to turn to clandestine, often unsafe, methods to end unwanted pregnancies. An estimated one in five women in Brazil has had an abortion by age 40 – the overwhelming majority of these abortions happen clandestinely.
Mourão’s position was surprising and encouraging coming from a prominent member of Jair Bolsonaro’s new government. Bolsonaro has said he would veto any bill approved by Congress that expanded access to abortion. His controversial choice to appoint evangelical pastor Damares Alves – who said in December that she wanted Brazil “free of abortion” – as human rights minister left many sexual and reproductive rights advocates very worried.
Against this backdrop, Mourão’s words brought some hope that there may be officials willing to defend a woman’s right to decide about abortion.
Mourão should put his words into action by working within the Bolsonaro administration not just to oppose any further restrictions on women´s right to choose, but also to expand access to safe and legal abortion.
It’s time for women in Brazil to be able to decide about their bodies and lives.