BRASILIA (Reuters) - A Congressional committee led by Evangelical Christians has voted to ban abortion in Brazil in all situations, including cases of rape and where the mother's life is in danger.
The decision was voted 18-1 late on Wednesday by a special committee considering a constitutional amendment to extend maternity leave for mothers of premature babies.
The single vote against the ban was cast by the only woman present during the session, Erika Kokay of the Workers Party, who called the decision a maneuver by the committee's pro-life Evangelical majority.
Abortion is illegal in predominantly Catholic Brazil except when the pregnancy is the result of a rape or puts the mother's life at risk. In 2012, the Supreme Court authorized the abortion on fetuses with anencephaly.
More than one million abortions are carried out at clandestine clinics each year in Brazil and thousands of women end up in hospital as a result of botched procedures, according to government estimates.
But even the limited circumstances where abortions are legal have been targeted by a growing Evangelical caucus in Congress that has led to a conservative trend in lawmaking on social issues.
"To defend abortion, like it or not, is a Satanic, diabolical and destructive act," Evangelical Congressman Pastor Eurico told the committee, brandishing a replica of a 12-week-old fetus.
The move to criminalize all cases of abortion would require supermajorities, or two-thirds of the votes in both chambers of Congress, as it is part of a constitutional amendment.
The measure could clear those hurdles as part of a trade-off for other legislation the governing coalition seeks to pass, such as pension reform needed to plug a gaping budget deficit.
(Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Paul Tait)