Despite being internationally recognized by competent organizations as a matter of public health, human rights, reproductive justice, and women’s self-determination, the discussion of abortion in Brazil is historically marked by numerous disputes. Moral and religious arguments are used to defend its prohibition, even in the context of secularity in the State, and even with the prevalence of scientific knowledge that demonstrates that the restrictions do not prevent it – they only preventpeople from safely interrupting pregnancy. Thousands of women resort to clandestine abortions every year in the country, and most of them do it in an unsafe way, i.e. using inadequate methods and by accessing the wrong information . And, despite being allowed by law in three situations, women face numerous barriers in the public health system, ranging from the difficulty of finding information to the unpreparedness and prejudice of health professionals .
Is Abortion Legal in Brazil?
Abortion is not legal in Brazil, but there are certain situations in which it is not considered a crime.
The Brazilian Penal Code, still dating from 1940, defines abortion as a crime, and it can be punished with imprisonment. However, there are three situations in which abortion is not considered a crime under the Penal Code: when the pregnancy is due to sexual violence; when the pregnancy is life-threatening; and when the pregnancy is an anencephalic fetus. In these cases, women can have access to the abortion procedure through the Unified Health System (SUS) free of charge [3, 4].
To access the legal abortion services in the case of sexual violence it is not necessary to present a police report or medical examination, or have previously reported the crime or appealed to a court decision. The woman’s account of the violence suffered is enough. To access the service in cases of risk to the life of the pregnant woman or when there’s an anencephalic fetus, it is also not necessary to resort to a court decision. You just need to locate the nearest health service that offers the abortion procedure provided for by law.
Sexual violence is understood as any sexual act or interaction performed without the consent of one of the parties involved or with the consent obtained through threat or coercion. Rape of a vulnerable person, on the other hand, occurs when there is sexual intercourse or any libidinous act with children under 14 years of age (with or without consent) or people who, due to illness, mental disability, or any other reason, do not have the necessary judgment to perform the act or cannot offer any resistance.
What Types of Abortion Are Available in Brazil?
According to the Technical Norm for Humanized Abortion Care of the Ministry of Health, abortion provided for by law can be performed by intrauterine aspiration (manual or electrical), by using a drug, or by uterine curettage (the latter being an archaic method). The choice of the appropriate method depends on the conditions of each health service and the woman’s preference, in addition to the necessary risk/benefit assessment of each procedure. Termination of pregnancy through microsurgery or microcesarean should be reserved for exceptional conditions .
What Is the Abortion Rate in Brazil? How Many Women Have Abortions?
There is great difficulty in obtaining accurate data on the number of clandestine abortions performed per year in Brazil due to the illegality of the practice, but the 2016 National Abortion Survey estimated that approximately 503,000 clandestine abortions were performed in 2015 in Brazil alone. This, and other data presented by this research, shows that regardless of its restrictions, abortion is a common practice among Brazilian women from different social realities. The Guttmacher Institute surveys carried out in recent decades point to an estimate of around 800,000 illegal abortions per year in the country [6, 7].
Abortion with Pills (Medical Abortion) in Brazil
Are the Abortion Pills (Mifepristone and Misoprostol) Available in Brazil?
Misoprostol was banned by Anvisa in Brazil in the early 1990s soon after the discovery of its abortive potential by Brazilian women. Since then, its use has been restricted to the hospital environment, including legal abortion services, post-abortion care, and induction of labor.
The only way to access Misoprostol in Brazil is through the legal abortion services; solidarity networks between women or feminists; or smuggling and the illegal market .
Mifepristone is not available in Brazil; however, it can be accessed with the help of feminist networks. It is important to be aware of accessing Mifepristone (or RU-486) on the illegal market as it can be counterfeited.
How Late Into a Pregnancy Can the Abortion Pills Be Used?
According to the Technical Norm for Humanized Abortion Care of the Ministry of Health, abortion provided for by law can be requested up to 22 weeks’ gestation if the fetus weighs up to 500g. It will be up to the health system to define the method of abortion, such as manual intrauterine aspiration (MVA) or abortion pills, according to the situation and what is available.
With access to basic and reliable information on how to have a safe abortion with abortion pills, it is possible to use the pills autonomously until 13 weeks of gestation. Its use is indicated only when someone who understands how to use the pills to perform abortions in more advanced pregnancies is present or availalbe to offer guidance.
Do I Need a Prescription for Mifepristone or Misoprostol?
Misoprostol is only released for hospital use, where it is provided free of charge. The laboratory that manufactures Misoprostol in Brazil only supplies the public health system. There is no abortion procedure provided for by law in private hospitals. Mifepristone is not available in Brazil.
What Brands of Abortion Pill Are Popular in Brazil?
It does not apply to Brazil, but the most popular brand found on the illegal market is Cytotec.
How Much Do the Abortion Pills Cost in Brazil?
Generally, Brazilian illegal-market suppliers resell Misoprostol tablets for exorbitant prices, although it is found in neighboring countries for negligible prices. In Brazil, a Misoprostol pill usually costs R$100,00, R$120,00, or even R$150,00, which makes it practically impossible for most Brazilian women to carry out the safe procedure (which requires the use of 12 Misoprostol pills). Because of this, many women are subjected to unsafe procedures that put their health and even their lives at risk.
Who Can I Contact for More Information on Abortion in Brazil?
You can contact Milhas Pela Vida Das Mulheres in its website https://milhaspelavidadasmulheres.com.br/ or phone number +55 (21) 9 8855-0675
In-Clinic Abortion in Brazil
What Are the Different Types of in-Clinic Abortion Procedures Available in Brazil?
Due to the restriction of abortion in Brazil, there are no clinics authorized to perform surgical abortion in the country. Clandestine clinics perform the procedure, but many of them operate in inadequate sanitary conditions and with professionals who are not properly trained. Those that have a reliable reputation and offer safe surgical abortions often charge between 3,000 and 10,000 reais per procedure, depending on the gestational age.
Where Can I Get a Manual Vacum Aspiration (MVA) Abortion in Brazil?
Does not apply to Brazil.
How Much Does Manual Vacuum Aspiration (MVA) Cost in Brazil?
Does not apply to Brazil.
How Do I Get More Information?
For additional information and support, you can get in touch with our trained multilingual female counselors.
by the safe2choose team and supporting experts at carafem, based on the 2019 recommendations by Ipas, and the 2012 recommendations by the WHO.