Abortion in Brazil
Abortion in Brazil is a crime, with penalties for 1 to 3 years of imprisonment for the pregnant woman, and 1 to 4 years of imprisonment for the doctor or any other person who performs the fetus removal procedure on someone else. In three specific situations in Brazil, induced abortion is not punishable by law: in cases of risk to woman's life; when the pregnancy is the result of rape; and if the fetus is anencephalic. In these cases, the Brazilian government provides the abortion procedure free of charge through the Sistema Único de Saúde (Unified Health System). This does not mean that the law regards abortion in these cases as a "right", but only that women who commit this crime will not be punished. The punishment for a woman who performs an abortion on herself or consents to an abortion performed by another outside these legal exceptions is one to three years of detention. The base penalty for a third party that performs an illegal abortion with the consent of the patient, ranges from one to four years of detention, with the possibility of increase by a third if the woman comes to any physical harm, and can be doubled if she dies. Criminal penalties fixed at four years or less can be converted to non-incarceration punishments, such as community service and compulsory donation to charity.
Brazil is a signatory of the American Human Rights Convention, also called the Pact of San José. The Convention grants the right to life to human embryos, "in general, from the moment of conception", and has a legal status on a par with the Constitution in Brazilian Law. The Civil Code of Brazil also safeguards the rights of the unborn. In a 2008 case, however, the Supreme Federal Court ruled, by a 6–5 vote, that the right to life applies only to intrauterine embryos, and that frozen embryos not eligible to a uterus transfer do not hold fundamental rights and may be manipulated for research purposes. In 2012, the Supreme Court also authorized the practice of abortion on fetuses with anencephaly.
On November 29, 2016 the Supreme Court in Brazil ruled that "abortion should not be a crime when performed in the first three months of pregnancy". This ruling is very controversial, due to the fact that the Brazilian government just passed a bill, earlier in 2016, which aimed to make Brazilian law on abortion even stricter.
The number of clandestine abortions taking place in Brazil is a very controversial subject which divides pro-life and pro-choice activists. A study published by the International Journal of Women's Health in 2014, estimated that in Brazil about 48 thousand clandestine abortions occurs annually. Pro-choice institutes like Anis - Bioethics Institute, however, estimate a much higher number. More recent studies performed by feminists in favor of the legalization of abortion suggest that, despite Brazil's severe legislation, 500,000 illegal abortions are estimated to occur every year among women aged 18–39 years - or one in five Brazilian women.
Impact to women's health
In 2010, it was reported that 200,000 women a year were hospitalized for complications due to abortion (which includes both miscarriages and clandestine abortions). More recent figures estimate that around 250,000 women are hospitalized every year due to illegal abortion complications, or 50% of all illegal abortions estimated per year. Those figures contrast with 2–5% of women requiring medical care after an abortion in countries where abortion is legal. The majority of women admitted at hospital after an illegal abortion are uninsured, representing a government cost of more than US$10 million every year. More than 200 women die every year in Brazil, as a direct consequence of unsafe abortions. The prevalence of reproductive complications and other negative health consequences associated with illegal abortion is unknown.
In a 2005 survey, one third of the Brazilian doctors who reported having performed abortions, used dilation and curettage. They have little experience with vacuum aspiration but they are aware of it as a method. They have a general awareness of medical abortion using misoprostol (Cytotec) or other prostaglandins to induce abortion but less experience with it. Few know of newer and more effective regimens using mifepristone or methotrexate.
The 2005 survey also found considerable ignorance of Brazil's law on abortion, with only 48% of the physicians knowing that it is legal to save a woman's life and widespread confusion about fetal age limits. An earlier survey found that two-thirds of Brazilian OB-GYNs incorrectly believed that a judicial order is required to obtain a legal abortion and only 27% knew that the woman needed to make a written request to obtain a legal abortion. Those doctors cannot give accurate information to their patients.
In non-hospital settings, women's folk medicine allegedly brings on the menstrual flow rather than causing an abortion. "Two folk medical conditions, "delayed" (atrasada) and "suspended" (suspendida) menstruation, are described as perceived by poor Brazilian women in Northeast Brazil. Culturally prescribed methods to "regulate" these conditions and induce menstrual bleeding are also described, including ingesting herbal remedies, patent drugs, and modern pharmaceuticals."
Some women, if financially able, will travel abroad to have abortions, with Cuba, Mexico, Guyana, Aruba, Curacao, French Guiana, and the United States being some of the countries women travel to.
Brazilian culture is greatly influenced by the Catholic Church. In a survey made in Ribeirão Preto (SP) in 2004, 70% of the Brazilian doctors responded that they didn't support the decriminalization of abortion in the country. The survey also suggested that 77% of the doctors of this region rejected the idea that abortion should be carried out simply because of the woman's desire. Furthermore it suggested that 82.5% of these doctors also reject the legalization of abortion due to socioeconomic difficulties. Finally, in the case of a possible legalization, only 17.5% of them would agree to carry it out professionally.
A March 2007 Datafolha/Folha de S.Paulo poll found that 65% of Brazilians believe that their country's current law "should not be modified", 16% that it should be expanded "to allow abortion in other cases", 10% that abortion should be "decriminalized", and 5% were "not sure".
Another poll on this issue was made in December 2010, by the polling institute Vox Populi. This study revealed that 82% of Brazilians consider that the current law on abortion should not be modified, while 14% consider that abortion should be decriminalized, and 4% declare to have no position on the matter.
Following the impeachment of former leftist President Dilma Rousseff, new opinion polls indicated an increase in the rejection to the legalization of abortion in Brasil. According to the Ipsos Research Institute, in 2017, 87% of Brazilians opposed the idea of legalizing abortion. The opinion polls carried out by the Paraná Research Institute also concluded that 86.5% of Brazilians are against the decriminalization. According to the IBOPE (largest research institute in Brazil), in 2018, eight out of ten Brazilians oppose legalization. This view is also followed by the majority of federal deputies, which makes it virtually impossible to attempt to legalize abortion through the Legislative Branch. All of this has led the small group of abortion supporters (led by the anthropologist Débora Diniz) to appeal to the Supreme Court, claiming that criminalization of this kind of act, "violates fundamental human precepts".[failed verification]
In 2020, a survey conducted by Instituto Locomotiva, found that, in cases of rape, 66% of Brazilians are favorable, 34% are against, are not for or against or do not know or did not answer, among the interviewees, 17% of people of other religions, 18% of Catholics, 23% of people without religion and 31% of evangelicals are against abortion in this case .
In March 2009, after an abortion on a nine-year-old girl raped by her stepfather and pregnant with twins had been performed to save her life, Archbishop José Cardoso Sobrinho of Olinda and Recife stated that automatic excommunication had been incurred by the girl's mother and the medical team. President Lula da Silva and Health Minister José Gomes Temporão decried his statement, and the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil disowned it, saying that the mother was certainly not excommunicated and there was insufficient evidence to show that any member of the medical team was. The statement was criticized also on the Vatican newspaper by the President of the Pontifical Academy for Life. One of the doctors concerned said the controversy had drawn needed attention to Brazil's restrictive abortion laws.
In July 2004, a Brazilian federal judge issued a preliminary ruling that waived the requirement for court authorization for abortions in cases of fetuses with anencephaly. The Brazilian Council of Bishops lobbied against the ruling and the National Confederation of Healthcare Workers wanted to make the exception permanent. In October 2004, the full Brazilian Supreme Court convened and voted 7-4 to suspend the judge's ruling until the full tribunal had the opportunity to deliberate and rule on the matter.
A 2005 study found that 53% of doctors had performed an abortion in the case of a severely deformed fetus, even though that was not allowed by Brazilian law without a court order. Doctors who thought that the law should be more liberal were more likely to have correct knowledge of abortion law and to be familiar with the abortion law regarding severe fetal malformations.
On April 12, 2012, the Supreme Federal Court ruled by an 8–2 vote to legalize abortion in cases of fetuses with anencephaly, saying that it was not about a potential life because an anencephalic fetus would certainly die and never become a person. The Catholic Church and Brazilian Pro-Life movements criticized the decision of the court, saying that even with a terminal illness, children with anencephaly also had the right to life.
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