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Understand The Abortion Situation In Brazil: Where Are We At?

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Casper Libero chapter.

Before talking about the situation of abortion in Brazil, it is important to know what the Brazilian Constitution protects. That is why we interviewed Flávia Nascimento, lawyer, professor and President at the Women’s Lawyer and Fashionlaw Commissions of OAB (Ordem dos Advogados do Brasil) Santos. “The federal Constitution guarantees the right to life, and we only have life after birth. The human bean will only have a civilian personality after your birth. The fetus is protected by the civil code as the subject of law. But the law does not determine after how long we can consider it, that is why there are controversies, because we have the scientific strand and the religion strand, each one has something to say”, explains Flávia.

Since December 1940 with the Decree-Law No. 2,848 the abortion is legal in cases of sexual violence, it is important to remember that it includes any kind of sexual activity, for example, when the women wants to have a sexual intercourse with a preservative and the men takes it off without her consent, and when the pregnancy put the woman’s health at risk. In 2012 after a trial in the Supremo Tribunal Federal (STF) it has been established that it is legal to have an abortion when the fetus is anencephalic, in other words: when it has a bad formation on the neural tube and that is a total or partial absence of the encephalon (brain).

If the woman is in one of these cases, she can do the proceeding for free by SUS (Sistema Único de Sáude). In case of anencephaly, there is not a deadline to do the abortion, but in cases of sexual violence it has to be done until 20 weeks or 22 if the fetus weighs less than 500 grams and the woman has to present a police report. 

Flávia Nascimento explains to us that “these are the women’s rights today, so if the abortion does not enter in any of these cases and it is induced it can be classified as a crime, because the constitution considers the intrauterine life. The penalties will vary from 1 to 3 years of detention for the women and 1 to 4 years of reclusion for the doctor or the person who helped the pregnant woman”.

Even with those penalties, the rate of illegal abortion is still high in Brazil. In 2018 the Health’s Minestery presents an estimate of 1 million induced abortion per year, those unsafe procedures result in more than 250 thousand hospitalized women, 15 thousand complications and 5 thousand serious hospitalizations. In 2016, 203 women died because of unsafe abortion, which represents 1 death every 2 days. Most of the women who died are black, young, single and had education until middle school. 

To preset and explain the arguments in favour of the legalization of abortion, we interviewed the gynaecologist and UOL columnist, Larissa Cassiano, who is specialized in high-risk pregnancy and humanized birth, to help us understand the statements bellow.

“Abortion is NOT a contraceptive method”

Doctor Larissa explains to us that as every surgical procedure, the abortion contains risks and it is not an easy process, because involves the mental health of the patient. “Many countries legalized abortion and this did not make it a contraceptive method for women. Even if they want to do it by option is not something you realize routinely. Even if they choose to do it, their organism has limited time between abortion and other pregnancy. Even in easily accessible countries, this access is not as simple like going to the pharmacy.”


“It is not a discussion of being in favour or against the abortion”

Abortion procedures happen if it’s legal or not, the subject being discussed is about safe and secure abortion for women, because the unsafe methods are done every day, and the results are women dying almost every time. Doctor Larissa explains that “(…) I have seen women losing their uterus and dying because of unsafe abortion. It is a matter of access. Restrict abortion is expose more and more those women, because a huge number will do it even if it is illegal”.


“It is a matter of social and racial inequality”


“A lot of women die in illegal proceedings, but it has also a huge number of women that pay and do it without problems” – Doctor Larissa Monteiro. As we explained at the beginning of the text, the majority of women deaths caused by abortion is black, young, poor, single and had education until middle school. In other words, those that can pay to do the procedure in good clinics and do not have money, die.

 “Abortion a matter of public and essential health.”


In 2013 the WHO published a new manual about the save abortion (Safe abortion: technical and policy guidance for health systems), which includes the rules, techniques and recommendations of how to do a safe proceeding and how to adapt to each woman. Besides that, the manual contains observations like: “Abortion to promote and protect the health of women, adolescents and their human rights” and “There are no known contraindications for abortion before the 12th week of pregnancy”. 

Countries in North America and Western Europe where the practice is legal has as presented a reduction in the number of abortions in the past 20 years. An example of that is the Netherlands, where the abortion does not have any restriction and yet it is one of the countries with a lower level of abortions. In the other hand, countries in Latin America and the Caribbean where the laws are more restricted has a higher number of abortions procedures.



The article above was edited by Carolina Rodrigues. 

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Beatriz Testa

Casper Libero '23

Hi! I’m Beatriz a student of Journalism at Cásper Líbero in São Paulo. My passions are to read, to write, but especially I love to dance if I’m dancing, I’m happy.