Ricardo Nunes against sexual and reproductive rights

Image: Anh Nguyen


S. Paulo City Hall interrupts access to legal abortion at Vila Nova Cachoeirinha Hospital

The Vila Nova Cachoeirinha Hospital, by decision of the São Paulo City Council, no longer provides legal abortion services. Recently, this topic came back to the fore with the court decision that demands the reopening of the service, but which continues to be disrespected. We can see from this clash between City Hall and the Judiciary something very serious and revealing of the setbacks that we are still experiencing in terms of gender and rights.

Since 2016, there have been a series of setbacks in human rights in the country promoted by right-wing political proposals to the detriment of respect for current legislation and sexual and reproductive rights. Legal abortion refers to the interruption of pregnancy that takes place safely in the cases provided for by law, that is, in cases of pregnancy resulting from rape, risk of death for the person carrying the pregnancy, or more recently in cases of anencephalic fetuses.

Since the 1940s, the right to access abortion in cases of pregnancy resulting from rape has been enshrined in law in Brazil, but access to these services took decades to be effectively implemented and is still very difficult in most of the country – for Sometimes, a person who has been raped has to travel more than a thousand kilometers to get care. Some services still require the victim to file a Police Report supposedly to prove the rape, which is not necessary to access medical care and terminate the pregnancy.

More than that, in the case of children under 14 years of age, rape is presumed – the law considers that the victim cannot consent and, therefore, any pregnancy is legally considered to result from rape. The setback represented by the previous federal government has reduced and even eliminated care and service networks, and has increasingly placed people who suffer sexual violence at risk. The current city hall of the city of São Paulo seems to have chosen the worst policies of that group, closing services and equipment that work in favor of the rights of women, girls and sexual minorities, as well as trans people.

Access to legal abortion is very difficult or non-existent in most parts of the country. São Paulo is one of the few cities that offer the service, but still in rare hospitals – to find out more, see the Legal abortion map or Overview of abortion in Brazil. The Vila Nova Cachoeirinha Hospital and Maternity Hospital is very important and considered a reference maternity hospital in the north of the city – and even serves people from many parts of the country, not just São Paulo, like many other reference medical centers in this city, public or private. It was also the only place in São Paulo that performed pregnancy terminations in more advanced stages, that is, above 12 weeks.

Interruptions in slightly more advanced pregnancies generate controversy, but it is a fundamental service, as this is the only way to deal with cases of rape against children and adolescents under 14 years of age, who often take a long time to discover the pregnancy. . It is necessary to remember that this is the most common type of sexual violence – it affects children and adolescents much more than adults, and can be rapes perpetrated within the home and repeatedly, usually by people known or relatives of the victim.

In the bulletin Violence against girls and women in the 1st half of 2023, the Brazilian Public Security Forum demonstrates the increase in reports of rape, with 74,6% of these referring to victims under 14 years of age. Furthermore, carrying a pregnancy to term in young girls is very dangerous and risky for their lives and health, and termination of pregnancy can be done safely.

Sexual and reproductive rights are consequences of human rights. Since the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, some notions of rights have materialized in international agreements and conventions. In the case of Sexual and Reproductive Rights, two events mark and consolidate the idea: the Cairo Conference on Population and Development, in 1994, and the IV World Conference on Women, in Beijing, in 1995. These conventions extend the idea of ​​respect , free will and well-being for the spheres of intimacy and reproduction.

Reproductive rights refer to access to information and contraceptive methods, allowing the pregnant person to have autonomy over the decision to have children or not, with health care throughout the reproductive period. Sexual rights refer to a sexual life without constraint or aggression, and state that each person has the right to choose with whom they will have sexual relations, including the right of women and girls not to submit to forced relations, as well as the right to partnerships homosexuals, when sex is consented by both parties.

When City Hall interrupts such an important service, it makes access to rights unfeasible. Women seeking services are being attacked and humiliated, according to column by Mônica Bergamo in the newspaper Folha de S. Paul. Furthermore, other violations are being promoted: the City Hall copied the medical records of patients from this hospital of the year 2023 to supposedly investigate the service at that location. But this was done without due legal authorization or consent from the patients, and means yet another violence, now directed at those patients who managed to undergo the procedure last year.

This decision to suspend services at Vila Nova Cachoeirinha results in situations such as children and young people raped from different parts of the country who seek this location and no longer have access to safe procedures. Often, they will have to wander around other hospitals until they find care, when it may be too late. With this attitude, the City Hall violates the autonomy of the pregnant person regarding the decision not to have children, in other words, it violates their reproductive rights.[1]

*Heloísa Buarque de Almeida is an anthropologist and professor at the Faculty of Philosophy, Letters and Human Sciences at USP. She is the author, among other books, of Differences, equality (Berlendis). [https://amzn.to/3Su8zDz]

Originally published on Journal of USP.


[1] I would like to thank Shislene de Oliveira-Macedo for her consultancy on this text.

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