On the map of Brazil, there are only 42 green dots left, representing maternity hospitals that still obey the law. The 1948 penal code allows these structures to perform an abortion in a few very specific cases: risk of death of the pregnant woman, following a rape and, since 2012, when fetal anencephaly is detected. .
Alongside the green dots, there are now 64 maternities listed in purple on the card, where the service no longer exists. Doctors, out of conscientious objection, refuse to perform abortion. Finally, twenty hospitals in orange no longer offer this service since the start of the pandemic due to the coronavirus.
This map, produced by the Brazilian branch of the British NGO Article-19, must be regularly updated: “We call, we survey hospitals, because the trend is still the disappearance of abortion services. We created this card because the situation is constantly changing and women have real difficulties in obtaining information if they want to have an abortion ”, explains Ana Gabriela Ferreira, who coordinates this work for the NGO.
What is now obvious is a medical desert to abort: only one hospital, in the city of Manaus, offers this service for the six states of the Brazilian Amazon; no hospital in the states of Maranhao and Piaui, in the northeast of the country. But even in richer and more populous states, you have to travel miles to have an abortion. Eight hospitals provide this service for the entire State of Sao Paulo, which has 44 million inhabitants, and five maternities for the 18 million inhabitants of Rio de Janeiro.
Complicate the task of doctors
“Not offering this service is illegal, but no one is going to oblige them. On the contrary, it is rather the doctors who respect the law who are in the collimator of the government ”, add Mme Ferreira. No one was really surprised by the decree of the Minister of Health on August 28, which singularly complicates both abortion conditions for women and the work of doctors. Now, the medical staff are required to write a report to the police on the circumstances of the rape, while currently, the woman has to give these details only to a small medical team, and chooses to file a complaint or not. The presence of an anesthesiologist would be mandatory in this team, unnecessarily complicating the task.
For the gynecologist Cristiao Fernando Rosas, who coordinates the Medical Network for the Right to Decide, “It’s a thinly veiled attempt to prevent abortion. This decree is illegal, contrary to the Constitution and to medical secrecy by transforming us into inquisitors. It is also cruel, forcing the patient to see the fetus by ultrasound, which amounts to torture ”.
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