Despite Legal Restrictions, Many Brazilian Women Have Abortions

In Brazil, where abortion is illegal under most circumstances, a pioneer domiciliary survey has revealed that one out of seven urban women age 18-39 has had an abortion.  Because of the restrictive laws in Brazil, women who manage to get abortions frequently are subjected to unsafe and unsanitary conditions. Of the approximately 5 million Brazilian women who’ve gotten abortions, 55% were hospitalized due to complications of the procedure.

According to Debora Diniz, one of the coordinators of the study and a member of IWHC’s Board of Directors, these women resemble Brazil’s overall population: “The survey reveals the face of the woman who has an abortion. She is not someone else, she is one of us. She is our colleague, our neighbor, our sister, our mother. In general, she has a partner and follows a religion”.

The survey came out at a moment in which anti-choice initiatives have advanced in Brazil, with the support of influential sectors of the Roman Catholic Church. On May 13th, President Lula enacted a reviewed version of the National Human Rights Program, which removed its original language supporting the decriminalization of abortion. Also in May, a Congress Commission approved a bill on the rights for the fetus, which still has to be approved at other instances before becoming law.

When Brazilian authorities make this type of decision, are they really saying that 5 million women should be incarcerated? In countries where abortion is criminalized, it is frequently women and not abortion providers who are arrested.

Hopefully, the recently launched survey will help inform Brazil’s public officials about the effect that criminalized abortion has on women’s health. We hope that at some point, Government officials will have the courage to adopt the original version of the National Human Rights Program, in which the Government said it “would support a bill to decriminalize abortion, taking into consideration a woman’s autonomy to decide over her body.”

If you read Portuguese, visit the ANIS website to get a closer look at the study.

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