According to reports, like this one, a nine year old girl, who was raped repeatedly by her stepfather from the time she was six years old, was given an emergency abortion by doctors after being rushed to the hospital with stomach pains. The Roman Catholic Church, which is very influential in this conservative nation, excommunicated the girl's mother and the doctors who performed the emergency, life saving surgery.
Meanwhile, the stepfather, who was caught while trying to flee the country, is still a member in good standing of the Church.
The decision of the ultra conservative Archbishop of coastal Recife, Jose Cardoso Sorinho, has been met with a firestorm across Brazil, but the Vatican defended the decision.
Cardinal Giovanni Batista Re, who heads the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, told reporters that although the girl fell pregnant after apparently being abused by her stepfather, her twins had, "the right to live, and could not be eliminated".Really? More serious than the fact that this man is apparently a serial rapist who also abused the girl's 14 year old handicapped sister?
In an interview with the Italian newspaper, La Stampa, the cardinal added: "It is a sad case but the real problem is that the twins conceived were two innocent persons. Life must always be protected."
The controversy represents a PR nightmare for the Vatican. The unnamed girl's mother and doctors were excommunicated for agreeing to Wednesday's emergency abortion yet the Church has not taken formal steps against the stepfather, who is in custody. Jose Cardoso Sobrinho, the conservative regional archbishop for Pernambuco where the girl was rushed to hospital, has said that the man would not be thrown out of the Church, because although he had allegedly committed "a heinous crime", the Church took the view that "the abortion, the elimination of an innocent life, was more serious".
The pregnant nine year old weighed 80 pounds and was carrying twins. Doctors believed her hips were too childishly thin for her to deliver the baby. The archbishop's solution - she could have had a Caesarian section.
The incident has sparked outrage across Brazil and even its president has weighed in.
Even the President, Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva, has waded into the row. "As a Christian and a Catholic, I deeply regret that a bishop of the Catholic Church has such a conservative attitude," he said "The doctors did what had to be done: save the life of a girl of nine years old. In this case, the medical profession was more right than the Church."And even one of the doctors, himself a devout Catholic, spoke out publicly
One of the doctors involved in the abortion, Rivaldo Albuquerque, has raised the prospect of public clashes at his local church, telling Globo, the nation's main TV network, that he would keep going to mass there, regardless of the archbishop's order.