BRAZIL – “Rich women pay, poor women die, all suffer” 

Attacks on abortion providers continue worldwide

On September 28, health and gender justice activists worldwide reaffirmed their belief in abortion as essential health care, demanding its free provision through public health systems to everyone seeking such care. Yet, access to reproductive and sexual health rights on the ground remains extremely limited, subjecting women seeking abortions as well as the health workers supporting them to growing persecution.

Crackdowns on health workers providing abortion services have been reported recently everywhere from Latin America to Europe. This is a concerning trend considering the existing gender health gap, alongside the global shortage of healthcare workers. Targeted attacks and intimidation campaigns, like those faced by sexual and reproductive health workers, force young nurses, physicians, and other professionals to shift to other fields of work, making existing inequities even worse.

One such case is Helena Paro, a physician in Minas Gerais, Brazil, who faces a defamation campaign for developing telemedicine guidelines to improve access to abortion services in case of sexual violence during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the guidelines align with Brazil’s legal provisions, local conservative groups and institutional efforts still aim to restrict her medical work, including through an attempt to revoke her medical license.

Despite attempts to limit both her work and abortion access in Brazil, Paro remains determined to continue her work. The clinic where she currently works enables women and girls from all backgrounds to access safe and legal abortions, as she pointed out in a recent conversation with Outra Saúde and the People’s Health Movement (PHM). This is particularly significant since in Brazil, middle-class or rich women are the ones who can afford safe abortions, while those from working-class and poor communities have limited options. Unsafe abortions continue to be a leading cause of maternal deaths in Brazil, and a serious threat to women’s health: every year, around 200,000 women seek additional care due to clandestine procedures.

SOURCE: People’s Health Dispatch, 3 October 2023 + PHOTO: Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil