Essay: Abortion and Consent


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Elisa Slattery, Sonia Correa and Rupsa Mallik

“Abortion and Consent” is the fifth of a ten-part essay series prepared for the Global Dialogue on Decriminalisation, Choice and Consent, organised by CREA, held between 22-24 October 2014.

Anti-abortion movements in Catholic countries are generally attributed to the Church’s values and doctrines. Historically speaking, however, this isn’t entirely accurate. In Brazil, for example, colonial criminal law that overlapped with medieval canonical law criminalised a wide range of sexual acts; but abortion was never one of them. However, the Brazilian Penal Code in 1830, adopted soon after Brazil’s independence in 1822, criminalised the practice of abortion – punishing agents of abortion, but not women who aborted. This law was in place for 39 years before the Catholic Church finally adopted a dogmatic position against abortion, after debating the matter for many centuries[…]Why does this history matter? Well, we generally think about anti-abortion campaigns as being linked to the influence of religion. But in reality, a closer look at history shows us that criminal laws around abortion directly came from the politics and policies of ‘managing’ populations and legislating a certain code of morality onto women’s bodies.


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