Thursday, July 10, 2008 (Brasillia)
Lawmakers in Brazil voted to keep abortion a crime, disappointing groups seeking to decriminalise an operation estimated to be carried out three million times a year in the country with the world's largest Catholic population.
The representatives in the congressional commission on the constitution and justice voted 30 to four against lifting the penal prohibition on abortion on Wednesday.
One of the deputies carried dolls and a baby's coffin to the session to underline his opposition to changing the law.
A pro-abortion organisation, Catholics for the Right to Decide, said it was disappointed but not surprised by the outcome.
''We expected this result against decriminalising abortion because there are totally opposed forces at work within the Congress,'' said a spokeswoman for the group, Dulce Xavier.
''They called a public audience to decide the issue and invited eight people opposed to abortion, six of them religious leaders, and only one health ministry official in favour,'' said Xavier.
While abortion is illegal in Brazil and can be punished by jail sentences, it is widely practiced.
Of the estimated three million terminations, most are conducted on married Catholics, according to a study by the universities of Brasilia and Rio de Janeiro state and the health ministry, which was published in 2008 in the press.
Many women die because of inadequate procedures or follow-up.
Brazilian law permits abortions only in cases of rape and where the mother risks dying in childbirth.