Abortion in Brazil is illegal except in two circumstances and carries severe penalties for the consenting woman and the provider of the abortion. As Brazil has the largest percentage of Catholics of any country in the world, the Vatican has also voiced its opposition to any legal reform allowing improved access to abortion.
There are currently only two situations in which an abortion can be legally conducted in Brazil:
It is time consuming and difficult for a woman to prove that a rape has occurred through the judicial court system in Brazil. For this reason only a small number of legal abortions in this category are performed each year. The Health Ministry has ordered the allegation of rape to be sufficient for a public health service abortion but this has been strongly opposed by many anti-abortion groups. Because many physicians fear prosecution they are unlikely to perform an abortion based solely on an allegation of rape and without a police report.
Brazilian law does not recognize rape within marriage which creates further problems for women who are victims of such an incident.
Abortions must be carried out by a physician and in the event of rape or incest, consent from the pregnant woman or from her legal representative must be obtained.
Many pro-choice groups have attempted to have serious birth defects included as an acceptable reason for an abortion but have so far been unsuccessful.
For consenting to an abortion or performing one herself a woman can be imprisoned for one to three years. If the woman is harmed, the sentence is four years and should the woman die, the consenting party can be imprisoned for six years. Judgments have been made however, to sentence women to perform community service in lieu of serve time in jail.
For advice, help or information on family planning issues in Brazil, women will generally consult a gynaecologist (gynaecologista) or a general practitioner.
Women On Waves, a Dutch non-profit organisation whose mission is to prevent unwanted pregnancy and unsafe abortions throughout the world