The reactionary onslaught and its limits

Image: Matteo Milan


An analysis of the Rape Bill

The political situation surrounding the debate on abortion

The Chamber of Deputies approved this Wednesday (12), without voter registration, the urgency regime for Bill 1904/24, proposed on May 17 by deputy Sóstenes Cavalcante (PL-RJ) and 32 others parliamentarians. This bill equates the abortion of a pregnancy longer than 22 weeks to the crime of homicide.

With the urgency approved, the project can be voted directly in the Plenary, without the need to previously go through the Chamber's committees. It is the result of an attack by the self-styled conservative camp, but better termed as reactionary, since it presents itself on national and international scenes under the banner of restoring the pillars of traditional society, based on the patriarchal family.

In this sense, it is crucial to highlight that, also on May 17th, the Federal Supreme Court (STF), suspended a resolution of the Federal Council of Medicine (CFM) that prevents the use of a medical technique (fetal asystole) to interrupt pregnancies of more than 22 weeks resulting from rape. The provisional decision was granted in the Claim of Non-compliance with a Fundamental Precept (ADPF 1141).

Around this, we understand that in the patriarchal system in which we are still inserted, the bodies located at the base of the pyramid are often selected to be sacrificed in the name of power projects that do not belong to them. This system perpetuates inequalities by imposing disproportionate sacrifices on citizens who carry social markers of difference in their being, whose needs and rights are often ignored.

The power project in question involves a series of political strategies calculated to consolidate influence and test limits. The advancement of initiatives demanded by Bolsonarists in the Chamber has been interpreted by some as a strategy by Arthur Lira (PP-AL) to guarantee the support of the PL, which has 95 deputies, and strengthen the choice of his successor in the leadership of the Chamber. In view of this, it is possible to understand that Lira is demonstrating her power and ability to control the direction of the House, even without the support of the government and the PT.

Furthermore, this action also aims to test President Lula's position on a possible veto of the project. By moving quickly with a controversial proposal, proponents seek to force the President to take a stance, which can have significant implications for his base of support and public opinion. It is important to highlight that the Palácio do Planalto has faced consecutive weeks of defeats in ideological votes that favor Bolsonarist agendas.

In this context, Villazzón (2014) infers that religious actors, especially Protestants, but also Catholics, act in favor of defending moral guidelines as a reaction to advances in the field of sexual and reproductive rights. Machado (2015) argues, in this sense, that politics can be used as an instrument by actors who mobilize Christianity to achieve this performance through two fronts: (a) defense of the traditional family (patriarchal and heterosexual), in opposition to LGBTQIAPN+ rights and the attempt to transform gender relations; (b) defense of life, strengthening anti-abortion speeches.

Around this, Luna and Owsiany (2019, p. 1) explain that in the Legislative Branch “the debate on abortion occurs in terms of disputes over rights claims and the recognition or not of entities as subjects”. However, as stated by Judith Butler (2017), part of the problem with contemporary political life is that not everyone counts as a subject.

The criminalization of abortion, and the attempt to delegitimize even legal exceptions, is analyzed here as a way of preventing women from exercising full autonomy over their bodies (Biroli, 2014), reducing them to a support instrument for the development of the fetus , considered and affirmed as a person (Luna; Owsiany, 2019). That is, the State, supported by segments of society and religious groups, positions itself as having a certain control and authority over women.

Faced with this, the strategy of the progressive field has been divided into two distinct approaches. Outside the government, the left tries to impose its own version and language, centered on reproductive rights, minority rights and questioning biology, without dialogue or listening, resulting in moral arrogance.

This approach proves to be ineffective among the poor, for whom the language of rights does not resonate, leading to the low effectiveness of this strategy. In government, the left avoids cultural disputes and focuses exclusively on economic issues, which has produced unsatisfactory results and a drop in popularity. This situation is comparable to the field of public safety, where both the lack of a comprehensive approach and the absence of an inclusive narrative result in poor performance and loss of popular support.

Trends and prognoses in the Brazilian political context

Considering this situation, Mattos and Paradis (2014, p. 108) stated that “our historical conservative forces (especially religious and political ones)” had already identified that these initiatives were transforming relations between the Brazilian State and civil society. The authors got it right: even with the re-election of Dilma Rousseff in 2014, the PT government was losing strength in part of civil society, in sectors of the bourgeoisie and, especially, in the political field.

Thus, in August 2016, our first President was impeached. In 2018, as the culmination of a process of reconfiguring forces in civil society that gave vent to conservative feelings and groups, Jair Bolsonaro became president. In 2022, the far right is defeated in the presidential race in a tight election. Despite this, when it comes to the national legislative field, it is not possible to say that there was a defeat: the National Congress remains dominated by right-wing and extreme-right parties.

Both the Federal Senate and the Chamber of Deputies continue to be presided over by their representatives. Given this panorama, the segregatory essence of Brazilian democracy becomes evident (Sacchet, 2012), since the parliamentary agenda is submitted to conservatives who are part of a hegemonic political elite in terms of social class, race and gender.

In conclusion, the Federal Supreme Court presents itself as the last bastion in the face of a conservative majority, acting as a counter-majoritarian power, similar to the role played by resistant forces during the Second World War - when constitutions began to materialize the hope that a diploma legal system ensured everyone a dignified, peaceful and free life. In contrast, parliament appears vulnerable to illiberal majorities, with the use of expedients such as the urgency requirement reinforcing the weakening of the liberal model, where parliament should be the locus of consensus-building processes.

This problem is worsened by the fact that many parliamentarians focus more on feeding their own social networks, aiming to increase their virtual influence, than on legislating for the benefit of the public. Thus, initiatives in parliament reflect more individualized power projects that are disconnected from the idea of ​​the common good, compromising the integrity of the democratic process.

The reactions of different public figures and society, in demonstrations held in different cities in Brazil, could be the beginning of an important process, already inaugurated with the massive rejection of PEC 3/2022, reported by Senator Flávio Bolsonaro, which aimed to privatize the beaches. In it, society seems to have begun to draw the limits of what would be acceptable in relation to the advancement of conservatism.

In addition to the progressive camps, at these events, there was a reaction from members of the conservative camp itself, despite the silence and even the defensive positioning of their leaders. The progressive field must invest in this mismatch between the manifestations of leaders who speak in the name of evangelicals, but who most of the time do not express the real interests of people who are evangelicals, but are also black people, are mothers and define their political preferences. from these various social markers.

*Giulia Gouveia is a PhD candidate in Social Sciences at UFRRJ.

*Mayra Goulart is a professor at the Department of Political Science at UFRJ.

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