RIO DE JANEIRO - The favored candidate to be Brazil’s next president, far-right politician Jair Bolsonaro, on Wednesday signed a commitment to keep abortion illegal if he wins power, backing a stance by the influential Catholic Church.
The 63-year-old ex-paratrooper, a Catholic whose ultraconservative and law-and-order rhetoric has lifted him in the polls, signed the promise during a visit to see Brazilian Cardinal Orani Tempesta at Rio’s archdiocese.
The document also reaffirmed Bolsonaro’s opposition to sex education material promoting acceptance of homosexuality in schools, and to decriminalizing drug use.
Bolsonaro is the frontrunner for an Oct. 28 run-off against leftist rival Fernando Haddad.
“We are signing a commitment defending the family, defending the innocence of children in the schools, defending the freedom of religion, against abortion and the legalization of drugs,” Bolsonaro said in a video produced and released by his campaign.
He did not respond to questions from journalists who covered his visit.
Abortion in Brazil is illegal except in cases of rape, risk to the mother’s health, or serious deformation of a baby’s brain.
In the first round ballot two weeks ago, Bolsonaro won 46 percent of the vote to Haddad’s 29 percent.
Polls suggest Bolsonaro has 58-59 percent voter support going into the run-off.
He has won backing through his prolific use of Twitter, Facebook and other social media, spurning media conferences and debates.
Part of his absence was explained by a month-long convalescence he was forced into after being stabbed by a lone assailant while campaigning in September, but he has continued to address his followers mostly online.
Bolsonaro also enjoys strong support from Brazil’s burgeoning evangelical movement, which is attracted to his family-first, Christian-laced rhetoric.
Brazil’s last census, in 2010, registered 65 percent of the population as Catholic and 22 percent as evangelical, though the latter is believed to have strongly grown since.
Haddad on Wednesday tried to gain traction among evangelicals, meeting pastors in Sao Paulo and defending his secular position.
“A secular state recognizes all religions. It doesn’t prioritize just one religion — it has to welcome all of them,” he said.
Haddad also railed against “libelous” posts on social media claiming he tried to have sex education “gay kits” distributed in schools while he was education minister between 2005 and 2012.