Thursday, October 25, 2007

Rio's Governor Sérgio Cabral on Abortion; PSOL Again Reveals Its False Sense of "Equality"

In today's Globo, there's an article in which Sérgio Cabral comes out in favor of the right to abortion in Brazil. Cabral rightfully points to studies that go back to the 1970s that show the undeniable links between birth rates, poverty, and violence, saying that, while he may not approve personally of abortion, he fully believes that not only should it be a woman's right, but that it would help combat the problems of poverty and violence in Rio specifically and Brazil more generally. He goes beyond what many politicians in Brazli (which is generally still extremely conservative on the abortion issue) are willing to say, proclaiming that the option of choosing an abortion is a woman's right, and as such, there should be public facilities that offer such services.

I can't agree more with Cabral on this. Until abortion is legal in Brazil, the growing inequality, poverty in urban areas, and the violence in those same areas will never decrease. This isn't a matter of "kill the poor and things will get better", an argument some "progressives" here claim it is (funny how they don't raise the same point when police invade favelas and kill dozens of people, traficantes or not). Until women have every means available to them for family planning (state-subsidized birth control is just a small step), the situation won't get better. I highly applaud Cabral for his open stance - Brazil needs to confront this issue, and fast.

Unfortunately, it won't thanks to people like Chico Alencar, one of Rio's representatives in the Câmara dos Deputados in Brazil and a member of the PSOL. He came out and called Cabral's remarks "nazi-fascistic". Taking that "progressive" stance of saying that such comments are just efforts to kill the poor, Alencar refuses to acknowledge the facts that, until all options are available to women (not just efforts to educate them about birth control, which many Catholic authorities here resist and undermine anyways), the problems will not improve. Alencar (and others) can harp all they want about how this is inequal and an example of "elitist" efforts to kill off the poor, but doing so ignores another very central aspect of society, not just in Brazil, but in other countries - making abortion illegal just makes it difficult for the poor to get an abortion. It is common knowledge here that the middle-class and elites have access to private doctors who can, will, and do perform abortions on unwanted pregnancies for them. So this isn't a matter of inequality on Cabral's part - it's a matter of inequality on Alencar's part, for to deny the poor the right to an abortion that many middle-class and elite women already have is just more stubborn insistence to ignore the real problems.

What is worse, Alencar is another example of the PSOL's false concern with equality. I have only grown angrier and angrier with PSOL since last year's presidential debates, when candidate (and PSOL leader) Heloisa Helena campaigned on a platform of social equality, yet was vehemently anti-abortion, effectively rendering any claims of a desire for "equality" useless (after all, what good is social "equality" if you're not even willing to defend women's equal right in decisions concerning pregnancy?). Alencar is further demonstration of how deep this complete failure to consider equality in all its forms (not just social or class, but gender, too) runs in the PSOL. It's one thing to hide behind his "progressive" concern for the poor to mask his anti-abortion stance; calling it "Nazi-fascist" just reveals how irrational, tragically cartoonish, and false the PSOL's (and many others') concerns for equailty are in Brazil. For all the good that a Cabral does by making such statements, you will have at least 10 Alencar's coming out against it with smoke-and-mirror arguments and baseless (and untrue) labeling. As great as it is that Cabral said this today, Brazil still has a very long way to go on this issue.