Illegal abortion is the fourth leading cause of maternal death in Brazil, and although policies have been eased in recent years (abortions are allowed in cases of rape, when the mother's life is in danger, and when the fetus has no possibility of survival).
Thousands of women continue to die from secret abortions. According to the International Planned Parenthood Federation, approximately 5,000 women die and 800,000 are hospitalized every year from abortions in Brazil and the surrounding region. According to Brazil's Ministry of Health figures, 1 in 7 Brazilian young women, between the ages of 15 and 19, are a mothers.
Just last week, a 9-year-old girl was 15 weeks pregnant with twins and underwent an abortion, causing a fierce debate on the role of religion in the country's policies. Since the mother of the young girl authorized her abortion, the woman has been excommunicated from the Catholic Church and the doctors who performed the abortion were each excommunicated as well. Defending the church's stance, Archbishop Jose Cardoso Sobrinho stated, God's law "is above any human law."
So, even though it was legal for the young girl to have an abortion because she was raped (allegedly by her stepfather), the church insisted on a tough line and penalized those who actually saved her life. Regardless of the circumstances, the Vatican considers excommunication a given for anyone who has undergone, or performed, an abortion.
I doubt the 80-pound girl would have survived a twin pregnancy to term. (Church advocates said that she should have carried the babies to term and had a C-section since her hips were too small to support a natural birth safely.) So why is it that the church considers her life worthless compared to the "two innocent persons," (as the twins were referred to by a local Cardinal), that she carried? Is she not innocent as well? It's as if the absolute horror of the physical pain and mental anguish inflicted upon her by her rapist means absolutely nothing as far as the Catholic Church is concerned.
And why has the stepfather not been excommunicated? Apparently, he has confessed to the crime.