The Federal Supreme Court (STF) ruled on Thursday that it is no longer a crime to abort anencephalic fetuses (with malformations of the brain and cortex - which in many cases leads to the death of the baby after birth). Abortion was already allowed in cases of rape or a clear risk to the woman's life. All other forms remain a crime, punishable under the Penal Code.
The early delivery of an anencephalic fetus is now voluntary and, if the pregnant woman expresses an interest in not continuing with the pregnancy, she can request a free service from the Unified Health System (SUS), without the need for judicial authorization. Health professionals are also not subject to prosecution for carrying out the practice.
According to the rapporteur of the case at the STF, Justice Marco Aurélio Mello, 3,000 judicial authorizations have already been granted in the country to terminate the pregnancy of an anencephalic fetus. One in every thousand newborns in Brazil is diagnosed with a brain malformation. This leaves Brazil in fourth place in the world with the most cases of anencephalic fetuses, behind Chile, Mexico and Paraguay.
Anencephaly is defined in medical literature as the malformation of the baby's brain and cortex, with only a "residue" of the brain stem. According to the National Confederation of Health Workers (CNTS), the disease causes 65% of babies to die while still in the mother's womb and, in cases of birth, survival of a few hours or, at most, days.