Illegal Abortions Proliferate in Brazil, Despite Abortion Ban

A recent study conducted in Brazil revealed that although abortion is illegal in almost all cases, nearly 1 in 5 women of childbearing age have terminated a pregnancy, a staggeringly high percentage considering that the vast majority were obtained outside the law.  And indeed, these are often unsafe procedures; 200,000 women are hospitalized each year due to complications from illegal abortions.  One thing is clear: although for many Brazilians, abortion is a religious and moral issue, tied to Catholicism, this is a public health issue (even the outgoing president has admitted as much).

But does the government seem prepared to deal with it?  Not really – in fact, Brazil’s Congress is considering legislation that would criminalize any act that would deliberately damage a fetus, a law that would tighten their already stringent abortion regulations.  Brazil does not have a good track record with providing abortion rights of any kind, and its government and society are heavily influenced by the Roman Catholic Church (last year, the doctors who performed an abortion on a 9-year-old who was impregnated after being raped by her stepfather were excommunicated – a legal procedure, but still socially condemned).

“I think the big conclusion we draw from this is that the woman who has an abortion is a typical Brazilian woman,” explained the researcher who conducted the study. “She could be your cousin, your mother, your sister or your neighbor. All the evidence shows this is a serious problem and one that is not being debated openly.”

Interestingly, Brazil has vastly increased its budget for contraceptives over the past seven years, in an effort to fight AIDS and STIs as well as unplanned pregnancy.  It seems illogical that the abortion rate would remain so high when affordable contraceptives were available, especially since it certainly seems less of a stretch to bend the Church’s rules on birth control than abortion, so I wonder what sex education in Brazil is like, and I also suspect that the high drop-out rate has a serious impact on people’s ability to take full advantage of these contraceptive services.

In any case, whatever the Brazilian government is doing clearly isn’t working as well as it could, and the result is a public health disaster.  These studies prove, once again, that banning abortion does not end abortion; instead, it increases maternal mortality.  The government has already defied the powerful Catholic influence by placing an emphasis on contraceptive services.  The next logical step is to ease restrictions on abortion access.

Photo from Flickr.


Vanessa S.
Vanessa S7 years ago

I hope that a solution is found to benefit all, including the unborn children.

Carole Tokaruk
Carole Tokaruk7 years ago

All life is to be protected and cherished, even the unborn. If life was held sacred and these women given aid to continue with the pregnancy I'm sure many would not abort. Abortion hurts society and kills the unborn child.

Lois Kobb
Past Member 7 years ago

Well, this wasn't hard to predict. Women will always find ways to get abortions, whether it is legal or not.

April Thompson
April Thompson7 years ago

Women have the right to take control over their own bodies!

Philippa P.
Philippa P7 years ago


carole a.
.7 years ago

I've never been to Brazil. I'm certain they can resolve this. Not knowing their country I've no opinion. Thanks for the article.

Tatiana T.
M B7 years ago

Religion and state has no business whatsoever in interfering with women's reproductive rights! I find it absolutely archaic how in today's day and age we still have the almighty Catholic church & their outdated dogma controlling women this way and are allowed to get away with it.. just unbelievable. I find it equally disgusting how the Catholic church frowns upon birth control as well. I am very proud not to be a Catholic if for only this reason. If it isn't the government controlling people it's always the church!!. Well, clearly men don't get pregnant otherwise we wouldn't have this kind of issue now would we? Well, I think in countries like Brazil where abortions are illegal, if women are forced to give birth to unwanted babies, that the politicians should then financially support all these babies?
So yes while I do agree that women should be able to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, I don't feel they should be using it irresponsibly as a form of birth control, which some do btw. It's sad to see that many people around the world live in repressive regimes where this goes on. The ideology to ban abortion is absolutely barbaric because it will only increase the amount of illegal "backdoor" abortions that will be performed in unsanitary and life threatening conditions. There needs to be more education on safe sex, pregnancy, abortions, etc. so that there will be less chances of another fetus being aborted. But church and government, stay the hell out of womens rights!

Svetlana S.
Svetlana S7 years ago

I'd never consider an abortion personally, but I still think that every woman should have the right to choose for herself.

Yvonne R.
Yvonne R7 years ago

Every woman has the right to her own body. Making abortions illegal will not stop them, this will only make woman who get abortions in great danger.

Lindsay S.
Lindsay S.7 years ago

Oh and if men could get preggers, then this wouldn't even be much of an issue!