Brazil is a predominantly Catholic nation with majority of Brazilians seemingly agreeing with the opposition of the Catholic Church to abortion and contraception. However, in spite of the public posturing of Catholics in Brazil (under Brazilian law, abortion is a crime punishable with up to ten years in jail), a recent report reveals that about 1 million abortions were procured in Brazil in 2007, a drop from 1.5 million in 1992 (1.1 million in 2005). Catholic Brazilian women, in-spite of the teaching of the church, seek unsafe abortion in illegal backstreet clinics where abortion is usually not performed safely. Abortion is listed among the top three causes of avoidable death among women in Brazil.
Apart from lack of contraceptive awareness, Medical workers in Brazil have identified lack of family support as the major reason why women seek abortions in Brazil. Brazil is a Catholic country with a religious culture which frowns at and stigmatizes out-of-wedlock pregnancies. According to reports, most young Brazilian women are forced to seek unsafe illegal abortion because society with its religious mores stigmatizes the single mother and the child born out of wedlock. The hypocrisy is evident here, for it is the same religious institutions which promote the rejection of certain categories of the unborn as "conceived in sin" which enforces religious rules forbidding the remedy of abortion for the child "conceived in sin."
A story carried by the Global Press Institute, illustrates the perverse double standards involved in the cultural attitude in which religious society rejects the unborn and its mother but then contradicts itself by imposing religious doctrinal prohibition of abortion. Luisa (not her real name) , the eldest of three daughters from a lower-middle-class family in Recife, Brazil, is now 20. She tells a story that is the experience of millions of young Brazilian women.
Luisa had an abortion when she was 18. Her father earns enough to support his family and Luisa herself was employed working in clothing store in a shopping mall.
Luisa met Carlos (last name withheld), a young man aged 21, from a wealthy family, while working, and soon, the two were dating and having sexual relations. When Luisa became pregnant, she told her boyfriend. Carlos flew into a rage and yelled at her saying he did not want the baby. With no one else to turn to, Luisa confided in her mother who was sympathetic but told Luisa that she dare not tell her father because he would be disappointed in her. Fearing her husbands reaction, Luisa's mother suggested that she get an abortion, a suggestion Luisa resisted for sometime. To avoid an abortion, Luisa confided in her boss hoping that she might be willing to support her. But her boss made it clear that she could not support pregnant employees and threatened to fire her.
Luisa realized that she was alone with her unborn. The Catholic society that had instilled the idea of "sinfulness" of abortion had rejected her unborn. Realizing, finally, that she could not hope to support the child on her own, she gave in to her mother and got the pregnancy terminated at a clandestine clinic. Luisa explains that she got the abortion early within the first eight weeks of pregnancy and all went well.
Dr. Carlos Reinaldo Marques, a gynecologist at the Amaury de Medeiros Integrated Health Center in Recife, testifies to the hypocritical double standard of religious society which maintains an anti-abortion/anti-contraceptive front but forces young women to the backstreet abortion clinic by rejecting the mother and her unborn. The Medical professional explains that lack of family and social support and lack of information about contraceptives (the Catholic Church is also strongly opposed to preventing unwanted pregnancies by contraception) are the major reasons for young women seeking unsafe abortion in Brazil.
Dr. Carlos Reinaldo Marques explains:
Lack of information about contraceptive methods is one of the main motives…There are also cases in which the woman does not feel support from her partner or any family members
The Brazilian experience illustrates the contradiction in the religious "Pro-life" stance on abortion. The evidence is that while religious society blames the abortion service provider and the woman who seeks abortion services for "killing the babies," the reality is that the decision to "kill the baby" is made by the society as a whole and not the woman (nor the abortion provider) whom religious society scapegoats hypocritically. Conservative religious society provides the hostile cultural and social atmosphere which drives women to seek abortion by declaring certain categories of pregnancies "sinful." The cross-cultural evidence is that the decision for an abortion is not taken primarily by the woman and the abortion service provider, but society which, with its restrictive religious and social mores, rejects the mother and her unborn.