Page last updated at 02:56 GMT, Thursday, 10 July 2008 03:56 UK

Brazil MPs reject abortion reform

A pregnant girl waits in a hospital corridor (generic, file image)
Analysts believe the bill is now likely to be shelved

Abortion will remain a criminal offence in Brazil, the world's most populous Roman Catholic nation, after MPs voted against proposals to change the law.

One MP reportedly took a mock-up of a baby's coffin into the debate, in the Chamber of Deputies, to show his opposition to the proposed reforms.

The centre-left government had backed moves to decriminalise the practice.

At least one million women are believed to have abortions every year in Brazil, despite the possibility of a jail term.

Abortion is permitted only in cases of rape, or where the woman's life is in danger.

"This bill won't prosper in the chamber," said Eduardo Cunha, head of the Justice and Constitution Committee.

Reuters reported that the controversial bill had been stuck in Congress for 17 years, but is now likely to be shelved.

Church groups had lobbied hard against the proposals and were seen cheering and praying when the result of the committee's vote was announced, according to reports.

Just four deputies voted for the bill.

"You can't treat this issue on the basis of religion or belief. It's a public health issue," said Jose Genoino, one of the deputies to back the proposals.

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