The Consequences of Criminalizing Abortion – Another Brazilian Case

We’ve covered the effects and lessons of criminalizing abortion before, be it in or Brazil, Nicaragua, El Salvador, or Chile. Sadly, Brazil,has another tragic example of the horrors that can occur when abortion is criminalized:

Jandira dos Santos Cruz was terrified. In her last text messages, she pleaded with a friend to pray for her. It seems she had good reason to be afraid: The 27-year-old Rio secretary got into a car with strangers on Aug. 26, bound for an illegal abortion clinic, and never came home.

Now police say a burned and dismembered torso, missing its teeth and found in the trunk of a car matching the description of the one Ms. Cruz took to the clinic, may be hers. Nursing assistant Rosemere Aparecida Ferreira, who is believed to be the clinic employee who arranged Ms. Cruz’s abortion, and her husband, police officer Edilson dos Santos, were arrested Thursday night in a city three hours away from Rio.

If Jandira’s case is exceptional for its horrific outcome, it is not exceptional for its existence. While Brazil allows abortion in the case of rape, incest, or if the mother’s health is at risk, even for these cases, it is incredibly difficult to find a doctor willing to safely and openly conduct such medical practices. The result is of the limited accessibility and social stigma of abortion is that, of the roughly one million women who seek an abortion in Brazil, “An estimated 250,000 women a year seek medical help in public clinics for the complications of an illegal abortion” (and that says nothing about those who are privileged enough to seek help from private doctors willing to quietly aid them and keep the issue under wraps). In the worst case scenario, as Jandira dos Santos Cruz reminds us, women die (sometimes in horrific ways) merely for attempting to exercise control not only over their own bodies, but their own futures.  Once again we have a tragic reminder that criminalizing abortion does not make it go away; it simply further endangers women.

About Colin M. Snider

I have a Ph.D. in history, specializing in Latin American History and Comparative Indigenous History. My dissertation focused on Brazil. Beyond Latin America generally, I'm particularly interested in class identities, military politics, human rights, labor, education, music, and nation. I can be found on Twitter at @ColinMSnider.
This entry was posted in Abortion, Brazil, Gender and Sexuality, Women's Movements & Issues, Women's Rights. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Consequences of Criminalizing Abortion – Another Brazilian Case

  1. drewhymer says:

    This isn’t a consequence of illegal abortion. Making abortion illegal doesn’t make women get abortions illegally because women are not mindless automatons driven by a lack of Y chromosome into killing their babies.

    In this tragic case, the woman did something very stupid. Others took advantage of her stupidity. Sad. Horrible.

    • Nobody ever said women were mindless automatons. Indeed, it’s the exact opposite – they are free to exercise their own choices over their own bodies. Which is why Jandira’s case is a consequence of criminalization. For her own reasons, she determined that she could/should not have a baby, and sought to terminate the pregnancy, but the lack of legal, safe options forced her to seek illegal, clandestine medical aid; the result was, rather than having a safe and legal option, she ended up dying and having her body horrifically destroyed in her effort to turn to a clandestine and far riskier path, the only one left to a woman seeking to be an independent person (not an “automaton”) but denied the right to exercise such freedoms by the state.

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