Recently Denise Hirao, IWHC’s Program Officer for Latin America, interviewed Debora Diniz, IWHC Board member and Executive Director of the Institute on Human Rights and Bioethics (Anis), about abortion in Brazil.
DEBORA DINIZ: In 2004, Anis presented a case to the Brazilian Supreme Court. It was a case on an anencephalic pregnancy, which is when the fetus has no brain and will not survive after birth. In Brazil, abortion is banned with two exceptions: when the woman’s life is at risk and in case of rape. Our idea was to change this small piece of abortion legislation at the Supreme Court level.
DENISE HIRAO: So this case was filed in the Brazilian judiciary and it went to the Supreme Court. Can you tell us what has happened since then?
DEBORA DINIZ: We got a preliminary injunction, a temporary authorization that allows women to decide if they want to abort when encephaly occurs. No women were forced to abort; they were free to choose whatever they wanted. But we lost the authorization; it was cancelled by the Supreme Court.
DENISE HIRAO: I understand that you have made a few short documentaries about this issue. Can you tell us a bit about the films?
DEBORA DINIZ: In partnership with International Women’s Health Coalition we did two films. Four Women tells the story of four women who were able to get abortions during the time that women were protected by the preliminary injunction. The second film is Severina’s Story – Severina is the name of a farmer, a poor woman who was in the hospital on the same day that the Supreme Court cancelled the authorization. We decided to follow Severina during four months after the cancellation so we could show the part of Severina’s life that the Supreme Court never witnessed.
Below is a short video of Denise and Debora talking about how Debora and her team found Severina and decided to tell her story.
DENISE HIRAO: What was the impact of the film?
DEBORA DINIZ: When we decided to make this film we didn’t know how to make films. IWHC’s support was key in helping us to tell this story. The impact of the film was tremendous. Not only because we did a good film, but because we had a good story. Severina is a great woman. And she was suffering, due to the Supreme Court decision. She was suffering from being pregnant and waiting to give birth when she knew that at the end she would not have a living baby.
DENISE HIRAO: You were able to make this film a very big part of the discussion about abortion. Can you tell us what it was like to screen Severina’s Story at a public hearing at the Supreme Court?
DEBORA DINIZ: It was the second public hearing in the history of the Brazilian Supreme Court. And Anis, the organization that I represent, was one of the organizations invited to be in the public hearing. We asked the Supreme Court to screen the film and they accepted. So this was the first time that a film was exhibited as evidence for a Supreme Court case.
We have the support of the scientific community. At the same time, the majority of public opinion is with us as well. I’m confident the Supreme Court decision will stand up for women, but we’re still waiting.
Watch Severina’s Story below and learn more about Anis here: