Catholic churches throughout Brazil rang their bells at 3 p.m. Thursday to sound a warning regarding the possible decriminalization of abortion in the country.

The Aug. 2 initiative took place on the eve of a Supreme Federal Court hearing which was to consider the constitutionality of Brazil's current law governing abortion. Abortion is permitted only in cases of rape, risk to the mother's life, or if the fetus has anencephaly.

A suit was brought by the Socialism and Liberty Party, an opposition party which has six members in the Chamber of Deputies.

The hearing could allow for the legalization of elective abortion up to 12 weeks of gestation.

Debora Diniz, a law professor at the University of Brasilia and a pro-choice who testified before the court, received death threats in June, Reuters has reported.

The court has not set a date for its decision.

At a bell-ringing at the foot of the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, Cardinal Orani Tempesta said that “we want to call to the attention of all of society the importance of life. Just as this fog is over Rio de Janeiro, today, we know that a threat always exists: the 'culture of death' which covers our country and all of humanity.”

He also expressed his desire that throughout Brazil the bells would “call attention to this important moment in our history with the aim of guaranteeing the inviolability of the right to life, set in stone in the constitution, changes or repeals resulting in the loss of fundamental rights therefore not being possible.”

Prior to the hearings, a number of bishops spoke out against the legalization of abortion, denouncing  judicial activism in support of this procedure and exhorting citizens to speak out in defense of life.

Archbishop Washington Cruz of Goiania, together with his auxiliaries and the Union of Catholic Jurists of Goiania, denounced the judicial activism which seeks to legalize abortion in Brazil after it could not pass the legislature.

“At no time did the National Congress fail to address the issue and they never allowed, as legitimate representatives of the entire nation, the normalization of this abominable practice of killing children in their mothers' womb,” they said.

They charged that “the issue was run through the court to get around and exclude the National Congress from the legitimate and democratic debate which governs the legislative branch.”

“This act offends the constitutional organization of powers and constitutes activism within the Judicial Branch which is highly injurious to the foundations of the state of democratic rule of law in which we live, because it effects an invasion of the powers of the legislative branch by the judicial branch,” they added.

Bishop Odelir Magri of Chapecó said that  that “abortion is not an achievement, but a social tragedy that corrodes the very roots of human coexistence.”  

He also called on the Supreme Federal Court to “defend life from conception to natural death” and to guarantee the prerogative of the National Congress “as the body authorized to regulate the issue.”

Bishop Luiz Guedes of Campo Limpo noted that “the majority of the Brazilian population is pro-life and against abortion,” and what is happening is “an invasion of the 'culture of death' already denounced by St. John Paul II.”

To address this situation Bishop Francisco Bach of Joinville has urged the National Congress to pass the “Unborn Child Statute”.

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.