Activists are taking the fight over women's abortion rights to Brazil's Supreme Court
03 Agosto 2018 13:31
Rebeca Mendes is a 30-year-old Brazilian woman currently living on the outskirts of São Paulo, the country’s most populated city. Rebeca became pregnant in October 2017 while she was changing her contraceptive method.
Rebeca wanted to have a legal and safe abortion in Brazil within her first trimester for reasons of her choosing, but she needed permission from the government to obtain a legal abortion.
Anis - Institute of Bioethics submitted Rebeca’s petition for a legal abortion as part of a pending constitutional case which is calling for the decriminalisation of abortion in Brazil up to 12 weeks.
Rather than argue on the side of special circumstance, Rebeca became the first Latin American woman to demand a legal abortion, to preserve her health and dignity, in the Brazilian Supreme Court.
Justice Rose Weber—one of the two women who sit on Brazil’s 11-member Supreme Court—denied her request on procedural grounds, but she did not give up. She also filed a writ of habeas corpus in local court in an attempt to secure her right to an abortion in Brazil.
While awaiting the decision, however, she was invited to Colombia to talk about her experience and had an abortion there before she returned to Brazil. However, most women in Brazil do not enjoy the same privilege of being able to travel to have the procedure.
According to the National Abortion Survey, one in five Brazilian women has already had at least one abortion by the age of 40. In 2015 alone, 503,000 Brazilian women had an abortion.
Most women choose to have clandestine abortions by buying pills on the black market or visiting clandestine clinics. This exposes women to unsafe situations, and almost half are admitted to hospitals for post-abortion care.
On August 3 (today) and 6, the Brazilian Supreme Court will hold public hearings
about the decriminalisation of abortion. At the hearing, 50 speakers will be heard, including health, law and social sciences experts, as well as feminist and international human rights organisations.
The case was proposed in March 2017 by the Socialism and Freedom Party ‘Partido Socialismo e Liberdade (PSOL)’ in partnership with Anis - Institute of Bioethics.
Currently, according to the 1940 Brazilian Penal Code, a woman who has an abortion can be sentenced up to three years in prison, and any person who helps her perform the procedure (health professionals, friends, relatives) can be imprisoned for up to four years.
The only exceptions for when an abortion is not considered a crime are in cases of rape, risk to the woman's life or fetus with anencephaly, that is, without a brain.