Legal Magazine

Abortion in Brazil: A Legal Perspective

Posted on the 30 September 2014 by Angelicolaw @AngelicoLaw

Abortion is one issue that strikes fierce debate worldwide. Our religious, political and cultural beliefs all impact our opinion on the subject. In the United States, the 1973 landmark case Roe v. Wade was decided by the Supreme Court and continues to incite lively discussions among family, friends and foes alike.

In Latin America, the teachings of the Catholic Church have undoubtedly influenced public opinion. According to a recent BBC report, seven Latin American countries have an outright ban on abortion. Chile, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua and Suriname all make abortion illegal without any exceptions.

While Brazil does not find itself in the group of seven, Brazil still makes it difficult for women to freely get abortions. In Brazil a woman can only legally get an abortion under three circumstances:

  • if she was raped,
  • if there is a congenital brain disorder with the fetus, or
  • if the mother’s life is in danger.

Even then it can be a battle to obtain permission. This has caused many women to seek illegal, underground abortions, which often lead to complications.

While just 1,613 abortions were performed legally in Brazil in 2012, it is estimated that there are between 800,000 and 1.2 million illegal abortions annually. About a quarter of a million women annually seek medical care for complications associated with illegal abortions, and every year there are women that die from illegal abortions.

In his recent visit to Brazil for World Youth Day, Pope Francis took many people by surprise with his unexpected, somewhat liberal comments about homosexuality. These comments had many observers hoping that the “People’s Pope” would express a similar, more lenient view on abortion rights. However, the Pope has remained adamant about the Church’s position against abortion.

The stigma associated with abortion in Brazil has led many people to publicly renounce abortion while privately being more supportive of it. But few expect there to be much change to Brazil’s abortion law in the near term. For now, unless they fit into one of the exceptions, most women only have the option of either illegally terminating the pregnancy or carrying the child to full-term.

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