Sexuality Policy Watch

After the games: another abortion death

abortoAs soon as the Olympics were over, Rio — the city that projected the global image of a new Mount Olympus of fit and sensual bodies – once again revealed its face as gendered slaughtering ward. On August 24ththe press reported that Caroline de Souza Carneiro, 28 years old, has died of a clandestine, unsafe botched abortion.  Her corpse left over in the street repeated the cruel pattern of abjection that has also characterized the deaths of Jandira and Elisângela em 2014.  Significantly enough the news broke on the same day that a lawsuit petition on women’s rights in the context of the Zika crisis — including to pregnancy termination- was presented to the Supreme Court. In an article published in Folha de São Paulo as soon as the new began circulating, the journalist Claudia Colucci  asked “For how long will be collecting women’s corpses on the streets?   and added:

Abortion related] deaths that reach the media are not sufficient to disclose the very grave public health symptom that abortions means in Brazil….. Policy managers and politicians more concerned with their electoral interests do not care either about these women who die in despair and abandonment. Or  even with those who will suffer from emotional and physical sequelae.  This is not something that will happen with their wives and daughters as,  in case needed,  they will have the best care.  It is the obligation of a state ruled by the principles of laicité to protect women’s health in order to prevent clandestine abortion deaths. This issue  can  not continue to be subject to political bargains aimed at gathering the support of the religious electorate.


Colluci’s plea takes us directly to the stage of national politics, where the end of the Games coincides with the final stages of the parliamentarian tour de force that has led to the impeachment of Dilma Roussef and has been interpreted by a wide range of observers as a parliamentarian  coup. On August 29th, for almost 15 hours of interrogation, Roussef, calmly and firmly, defended her mandate. In contrast, the accusation attorney Janaína Paschoal, probably speaking directly to the religious conservative quarters,  could not refrain from conjuring the name of god as the doer of the political shift underway. [1]

All predictions indicate that, despite the consistency of her defense arguments — which recognize the legality of the process but not the substance of the accusation — Roussef will be impeached.  What will then ensue remains to some extent unpredictable in political terms, because this is when the rejection to Temer the interim president may emerge in full force, but also because the country is rapidly headed towards municipal elections on October 3rd . But with regards to federal policies and the Congress, predictions can be made that are pretty dire: an announced (but yet not fully defined) fiscal adjustment aim at suspending earmarked publics investments in health and education and, in particular, a potential revamping of numerous highly regressive legislative proposals now pending in Congress, whose processing has been slowed downed over the last few months because of impeachment procedures and the parliamentary recess in July. These potential legal blows, which are now palpable at the level of Congress,  give reason to Seffner when, at the end of his paper, he says that the Rio Games can be also be read as a privileged site of resistance to dogmatic and conservative strands that, in Brazil and elsewhere, are employing their full powers restore sexuality and gender orders to what they always have been.

Image: the first image of this post is a remake of the newspaper front page photo illustrating the report on Caroline Carneiro botched abortion death. The text reads: Woman body found with  a fetus inside her belly. 



[1] Paschoal said: “God made that many people perceive what was happening in our great country and to have the courage to raise up and do something about it“. As reported in the SPW April, 2016 article on Brazilian sexual politics, Paschoal and two other members of the accusation theme have connections with Catholic constitutionalism conservative streams and think tanks.

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