Which Are The Laws About Abortion in Brazil And What Do They Mean For Women

In Brazil, abortion is illegal and considered a crime. Registered on the Penal Code (1940) in the session of “Crimes against life”, the jail sentences vary from 1 to 3 years to the pregnant woman and, in the case of the doctor who realizes the procedure, from 1 to 4 years. Although, there are some exceptions and abortion is not qualified as a crime in three situations: (1) if there’s risk of death to the mother, (2) when it results from rape or (3) if the fetus is anencephalic. In these cases, the brazilian government provides free and legal abortion through the public health system (Sistema Único de Saúde - SUS).

According to the Ministry of Health (2017): from 2008 to 2017, there were between 9 and 12 million abortions in Brazil. On the same period, SUS spent around R$ 486 million with hospitalizations for abortion. The estimates of how many illegal abortions are made annually is highly speculative since most of them are clandestine. Because of that, there are divergences with other non-governmental sources when it comes to the actual number of procedures performed.

The thing is: abortion is a matter of public health and should be properly treated as one. In Brazil, however, that does not happen. There are many services that don’t actually work and politicians that don’t put any effort on solving this problem. There are many cases of women that have to travel from another state to São Paulo just to go to Hospital Pérola Byington, a center of reference for victims of sexual violence. Besides that, the projects for the legalization of abortion don’t go forward, because a huge part of the politicians are conservatives, “pro life” and men.

“People usually legislate for their own benefit and most legislators are men. If men got pregnant, this abortion issue would be already solved.” - Luís Roberto Barroso, minister of the Supreme Federal Court

The fight to legalize abortion in Brazil isn’t new. Women have always expressed their dissatisfaction, but recently this issue has been more discussed. On November 2017, women protested on Avenida Paulista, in São Paulo, against the Proposed Amendment to the Constitution (PEC) 181/2015. The PEC 181 would open a legal loophole to condemn women for abortion even in cases that are currently allowed by the Penal Code. Months later, on August 2018, this subject was once again brought up because the Senate of Argentina, one of our neighboring countries, rejected the law that would make abortion legal.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Why is it so important legalizing the abortion in all cases? Well, women should have the right to decide what to do with their own lives and their own bodies. Contraceptive methods fail, people don’t always have good conditions to raise a child, public services don’t work as they were supposed to, and women suffer and die because of it every day. When abortions are done according to WHO guidelines and standards, the risk of severe complications or death is negligible. In the absence of safe conditions, the results may include incomplete abortion, bleeding, vaginal, cervical, and uterine lesions, as well as infections, which burden public health costs.