The woman, who only wants to be identified as F.D., went to a clinic
hidden away in the southern state of Paraná for an abortion when she
was a student.
Ordered by her family to keep silent, F.D. says the secrecy and
shame has stayed with her.
"For me it was something very violent, very aggressive and
terrible," she said.
Roughly one million women each year seek abortions to end unwanted
pregnancies in Brazil, where abortion is illegal except in cases of
rape or incest or if the life of the mother is in danger.
Brazil has raided and closed down hundreds of secret abortion
clinics across the country over the last decade.
Once tolerated, the clinics have become the target of a clampdown
which human rights groups say is due to a rising numbers of
evangelical Christians in the Brazilian Congress.
Just weeks ago, two doctors and a patient were arrested at a secret
clinic in Rio de Janeiro's glitzy Copacabana district.
The gynecologist and anesthetist were in the middle of a procedure
when police came through the doors. The gynecologist works by day at
a hospital in Leblon, one of Rio's wealthiest neighborhoods.
If convicted, the doctors face up to four years in prison. Women who
undergo illegal abortions can face up to three years in prison,
though such sentences are rare.
The arrests in such a high-priced district highlight Brazil's gaping
social divide, which leaves rich and poor women with very different
Women without means turn to unsafe backstreet operations or try to
carry out the procedure themselves, which can result in botched
abortions or death.
Brazil's National Health System estimates that 250,000 women a year
arrive in hospital emergency rooms with health problems that are a
direct consequence of unsafe abortions.
Brazilian press reports have said that a woman dies every two days
from an illegal abortion.
One botched case was that of Jandira Magdalena dos Santos Cruz, a
young woman last seen getting into a car in Rio in 2014 to be taken
to a clandestine clinic to end a 16-week pregnancy.
Her mutilated and charred body was found the next day.
Police said a criminal network likely ran the illicit clinic and
probably killed Cruz after she developed complications they could
Women with means, on the other hand, pay expensive fees at high-end
clinics with legitimate, moonlighting doctors.
F.D. was referred to a clinic by her boyfriend's father, a doctor
himself. She says it was luxurious, well-organized and costly.
Being so secret and illegal, however, the abortion left her with
psychological scars, she said. She said she also felt pressured into
it by her conservative Roman Catholic family.
"There are people who go and get it done and then forget, but there
are others, more sensitive people like me, who are hurt by it for
the rest of their lives," she said.
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"It's an incredible pain which afflicts you every day of your life,"
Now married and wanting to start a family, she said she struggles to
talk freely about her abortion in a nation that views it so
OPPOSITION TO CHANGE
While campaigners and United Nations officials have called for an
easing of abortion laws, in light of the mosquito-borne Zika virus
that is linked to severe birth defects, Brazil's Congress, brimming
with evangelical Christians and Catholics, staunchly opposes any
The population, two-thirds Catholic, also is largely opposed to
legalization, polls show.
"Because of this, the majority of women have an abortion in secret
and then don't tell anyone," said Vanessa Dios, a researcher at
Brasilia-based women's rights group Anis.
"They are afraid of being arrested but also morally judged," she
said, adding that some women have been excommunicated or thrown out
of their church.
One consequence of Brazil's strict abortion laws is women turning
outside the country for help.
Medical abortions, in which women use pills such as misoprostol in
the early stages of pregnancy, are growing more common in Brazil,
according to the U.S.-based Guttmacher Institute and Women on Web,
an Amsterdam-based reproductive rights group that provides
"I've noticed more women coming to us since the Zika crisis
started," said Leticia Zenevich of Women on Web.
But some women who buy the pills online have reported that the
Brazilian state regulator Anvisa seized packages containing the
medication, Zenevich said.
Emails sent to the group from Brazilian women lament their lack of
options. Several described themselves as "desperate" and unable to
afford to raise a child.
One wrote that she found phony misoprostol pills sold in Paraguay
and that the internet "is full of scams."
"I cannot really trust anyone," she said.
(Reporting by Sophie Davies, Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst; Please
credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson
Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking,
property rights and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)
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