Saturday, March 28, 2009

Abortion debate continues in Brazil

Many readers have probably already heard about the 9-year-old Brazilian girl who was raped and eventually impregnated by her stepfather. The girl, who weighs only 80 pounds, was carrying twins, and it was deemed that the pregnancy posed a serious health risk. So she underwent an abortion in her 15th week of the pregnancy after being granted access for the procedure by a judge. This caused an uproar in Brazil, a predominantly Catholic country where abortion is illegal except for cases of rape or when the mother's life is in jeopardy.

Soon after this procedure took place, there was talk of everyone involved in the case, such as the girl's mother and the doctors who performed the abortion, were to be excommunicated. The stepfather, unbelievably, escaped such action. Luckily, there seems to be some disagreement among Catholics about the excommunication argument.

Then, today I came across this article that discusses the growing problem of sexual assault of young girls in Brazil. Apparently, the case mentioned above has shed light upon numerous other such cases of rape of young girls, often by family members, especially in poor regions of the country.
The number of legal abortions of girls ages 10 to 14 more than doubled last year to 49, up from 22 in 2007, the Ministry of Health reported. That was out of 3,050 legal abortions performed last year in a country of more than 190 million. But the vast majority of Brazil’s abortions are not legal. The Ministry of Health estimates about one million unsafe or clandestine abortions every year.
And: PĂ©rola Byington Hospital [a women’s health clinic specializing in treating victims of sexual violence], doctors said abortions were often necessary to protect the lives of sexual-violence victims. Of the 47 abortions performed at the hospital last year, 13 were girls under 18, all victims of rape.
Although there are now 55 clinics that may perform abortion, opposed to only one twenty years ago, most of the clinics that are financed by the state are located in capitals far away from many of the people who need their services, and they are concentrated in the southeast of the country, a much wealthier region.

The politics of abortion are still being fought over in Brazil, where anti-abortion Congress members who want to push for more restrictive abortion laws are the majority.


FEMily! said...

But the vast majority of Brazil’s abortions are not legal. The Ministry of Health estimates about one million unsafe or clandestine abortions every year.

Which is about as many legal abortions that are performed every year in the US, which has nearly twice as many people as Brazil. Interesting.

Liz said...

I'd have to ask how someone could weigh 80lbs when she's four months pregnant with twins. If you've started puberty that would be impossible. Why do people feel the need to emphasise that she's small? Would it be okay to rape a nine year old if she had developed?

Apart from that, this is the kind of thing that makes me see red. Rape someone = the Church will forgive you. Abort the pregnancy that results from that rape = the Church will never forgive you. I love their priorities. *headdesk*

Amelia said...


In what I've read, the reason for emphasizing the smallness of the girl was always to explain why her pregnancy was a threat to her life. For example, saying that she was only nine years old, weighed 80 pounds, and saying that her uterus was too small to support one (let alone two) babies. I have never heard it used in a manner that made it seem that any of the articles' authors thought that raping a nine year old who was more developed was ok. If anything, the wording seemed to be employed to draw a clearer picture of the horrible nature of the crime: this girl was raped, and she was very small and very young.
...Not that this makes the rape of an older woman less horrible. I think they were just playing on the particulars of this case.

I do not know if the weight was hers before/after the abortion or during her pregnancy, though. But I would like to point out that it has been stated that she was from a poorer part of Brazil, which could be a reason for her being under-weight, even if she had hit puberty.