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WAS Statement About Limitations of Abortion Rights in Brazil (PEC 181)

December 11th, 2017

In Brazil, abortion is only permissible in cases of rape, when a pregnancy threatens the woman’s life, and in the case of very serious brain damage of the fetus (anencephaly). Consequently, around one million abortions are performed illegally each year, with many of these under unsafe conditions. The Brazilian Ministry of Health reported that at least 181,000 women were treated in 2015 for complications of illegal abortion, of which 59 women died.

Reports indicate that 60% of complicated abortions occur in women under 20 years of age, because they do not have access to contraception or legal abortion. Clandestine abortions cause 1 in 8 maternal deaths and between 10 to 50% are complicated by incomplete abortion, infection, hemorrhage, perforation of the uterus, sterility and psychological traumas.

Despite acknowledging the risks and high rates of complications, the federal government is planning to make all abortions illegal. The bill – PEC 181 – will, if approved, remove all exceptions for a legal abortion. This measure is part of a constitutional amendment.

Several Brazilian organizations are currently challenging PEC 181 and the limitations it imposes on women’s sexual and reproductive rights.

The World Association for Sexual Health (WAS) denounces the bill, PEC 181, and reaffirms its support for the sexual and reproductive rights of women. Article 12 of the WAS Declaration of Sexual Rights (2014) states that everyone has the right to make reproductive decisions on their own terms, and this right includes unobstructed access to sexual health services, including safe abortions.

Beyond the clear violation of human rights recognized by international statutes concerning sexual and reproductive health and rights and the UN Sustainable Development Goals, WAS considers that obstacles to safe abortion will result in an increase of illegal and unsafe abortions, causing serious harm to women. Unsafe abortion is one of the major causes of maternal mortality in Brazil.

WAS is an international organization, with more than one hundred member organizations across the globe, that promotes and advocates for sexual health and sexual rights throughout the lifespan and across the world by advancing sexuality research, comprehensive sexuality education, and clinical care and services for everyone.

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