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Abortion in Brazil: Contending Discourses and Women's Experiences


It is a common practice for anthropologists to explore connections where scholars from different disciplines do not expect to search and find them. This is the theoretical and methodological orientation in which I was trained as an anthropologist and from which I approach the practice of abortion in Brazil in hope to reach an understanding of the constituent dimensions of this social fact. Before I move on the to discussion, I would like to provide some background on the practice of abortion in Brazil. In contrast to the US, abortion is a crime according to the Brazilian Penal Code of 1940. Abortion is punishable by one to three years in prison, except in cases of rape or life-threat to a pregnant woman. The illegal practice, however, is still widely carried out to interrupt unplanned pregnancy, and there are just a few cases of punishment in the jurisprudence. Based on my fieldwork in the South and Central-West of Brazil, my research goal was to examine how various discourses intersect on the issue of abortion. My purpose in this paper is to analyze the interplay of cultural, political and experiential dimensions on hidden abortion practices. I have been working on this issue for four years and it is from my fieldwork experiences and interviews that I collected for my master's thesis that I will discuss.

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