RIO DE JANEIRO - The United Nations on Monday voiced concern over a bill under consideration by Brazil's congress that would ban access to all abortions, even in cases of rape and women whose lives are in danger.
The bill "poses an increased risk to women's health," the UN Population Fund's Brazil office said in a statement.
Women in Brazil currently only have access to abortions when the pregnancy is a result of rape, their health is at risk, or in cases of the fetus having severe medical defects such as anencephaly, when most of the unborn child's brain is missing.
The new bill, which was green-lighted by a congressional committee two weeks ago, is seen as a "Trojan horse" by pro-choice activists.
Its initial goal was to extend maternity leave for mothers of premature babies, but ultra-conservative members of congress linked to evangelical churches inserted a clause stipulating that the right to life should be "inviolate from the moment of conception," which would deny access to abortions even for women who currently qualify.
The revised version of the bill "denies women the opportunity to decide on issues relating to matters that involve serious violations of their most basic rights ... doubly penalizing victims of sexual violence or women in vulnerable positions," the UN statement said.
The organization also denounced it as a "step back" which "distances Brazil from its international engagements" in terms of women's rights, and noted that backstreet abortions are "one of the leading causes of death in mothers in Brazil and around the world."
The bill is currently making its way through congress but faces a series of hurdles before it can become law. It must first be debated once again by the committee before a full vote in the lower house of congress, where it will need to gain the support of three-fifths of law-makers.
Demonstrations against the bill took place last week in a number of major cities in Brazil.