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  HOME | Brazil (Click here for more)

Controversy Over Abortion Sparks Tension in Brazil Elections

SAO PAULO – The controversial subject of abortion remains front and center in Brazil’s presidential elections as a new chapter is added to the exchange of accusations between candidates Dilma Rousseff and Jose Serra.

According to the daily Folha de Sao Paulo, the Chilean psychologist and ex-dancer Monica Allende, wife of opposition hopeful Serra, admitted in 1992 to her ballet students at the University of Campinas that she had an abortion during the time the couple was being persecuted by the dictatorships of Chile and Brazil.

The revelation by two of Allende’s former students cited in the newspaper caused a stir, after Serra’s wife said at a September electoral meeting in Rio de Janeiro said that Rousseff was a “baby-eater” for supposedly planning to legalize abortion in Brazil if elected.

Brazilian dancer Sheila Ribeiro, 37, the wife of Italian anthropologist Massimo Canevacci, and another of Allende’s ex-students who preferred to remain anonymous, confirmed to the daily a rumor that was already circulating on some Internet blogs.

“I wish to express my indignation for the weak position of Jose Serra, who does not even respect his own wife. Monica Serra has had an abortion. With all the respect I owe my professor, I wish to reveal that our classes discussed traumatic abortion. She told us she had an abortion, but I don’t mean to say it was a confession,” Ribeiro said.

Serra, the center-right candidate of the Brazilian Social Democracy Party, got through to the runoff election with 32.61 percent of the vote compared with 46.91 percent for Rousseff of the ruling center-left Workers’ Party.

The campaign for the runoff election is giving special importance to abortion and religion, and both candidates have stoutly defended their opposition to abortion and have reaffirmed their faith in an attempt to capture the Catholic vote.

Rousseff repeated Friday her opposition to abortion and her commitment not to weaken the current law in case she is elected in the second round of voting on Oct. 31.

“I am personally against abortion and defend keeping the current legislation as it is,” Rousseff said in a six-point letter to voters, which included other social topics and was published in the nation’s media.

Abortion is banned in Brazil except in cases of rape or when the mother’s life is in danger.

In the days leading up to the first round of elections on Oct. 3, several media outlets echoed Rousseff’s statement in 2007 in which she let it be understood that she favored making the abortion law more flexible, a factor that political analysts say could have cost her votes.

On Sunday, in the first televised debate of the second round, Serra harshly criticized Rousseff for her “incoherent” positions on abortion and her faith in God.

“I have never defended abortion. You did defend it and now you’re saying just the opposite and making yourself the victim. In some interviews you have doubted the existence of God and suddenly you’re very devout,” Serra told Rousseff in a televised debate in Bandeirantes.

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