RIO DE JANEIRO – Brazil expanded its requirements Friday (Aug 28) for rape victims seeking an abortion, including a rule that medical staff must tell the woman she can see the embryo or fetus via ultrasound.
The new regulations published by far-right President Jair Bolsonaro’s health ministry also stipulate that the rape “must be reported to police” regardless of the woman’s wishes, that she must give doctors “a detailed account” of what happened, and that she must be “expressly warned” she can be prosecuted for fraud and aborting illegally if she is unable to prove her claim.
Brazil allows abortion only in cases of rape, danger to the woman’s life or the severe birth defect anencephaly.
Even those exceptions are controversial among the religious right in Latin America’s largest country, which has powerful conservative Catholic and Evangelical Christian communities.
The new rules issued by interim health minister Eduardo Pazuello, an active-duty army general, came on the heels of an outcry earlier this month over the case of a 10-year-old girl who was allegedly raped by her uncle and was refused an abortion in her home state, Espirito Santo.
She then flew across the country to the northeastern city of Recife, where she was able to undergo the procedure.
However, she was met outside the hospital by far-right activists and politicians who staged a furious protest.
Demonstrators were informed of the girl’s identity and the hospital where she was to be admitted in a video posted online by far-right activist Sara Winter, a prominent Bolsonaro supporter with close ties to Women’s Minister Damares Alves, an Evangelical pastor.
The new regulations from the health ministry, published in the official gazette, triggered immediate outcry from abortion rights supporters.
“I have just introduced a bill in Congress to block today’s health ministry decree, which is an obstacle to legal abortion and constitutes psychological violence against women,” leftist lawmaker and doctor Jandira Feghali wrote on Twitter.
Sixteen lawmakers in the lower house, including Feghali, wrote a letter to UN human-rights chief Michelle Bachelet urging her to intervene against the decree as a matter of protecting women’s rights.