Severina (2004) – Brazil

Woman forced to carry doomed pregnancy to near-term because of CO and legal restrictions

Severina is a farmer from the small city of Chã Grande in Brazil, married with a 4-year old son, with few resources. On October 20, 2004, she was four months pregnant with an anencephalic fetus, and had just been admitted to the hospital to undergo a legal abortion. But that very day, the Supreme Court cancelled a 4-month old court injunction that had authorized terminations of anencephalic pregnancies. Severina was sent home, unable to get her abortion. She spent the next three months going from courts to hospitals and back to courts, trying to find someone to help her. But many doctors in Brazil refuse to perform abortions because they are afraid to be known as abortionists, believe they could be sued, or have a moral or religious conscientious objection.

Finally, Severina obtained authorization from a judge, but the anesthetists at the hospital where she was referred for an abortion refused to assist her on religious grounds. Severina waited again, and trekked from one hospital to another. Finally, she was assisted by a volunteer anesthetist from a private clinic who agreed to help perform the abortion in a public hospital. Since she was near-term at that point (Jan 2005), labour was induced and she gave birth to a stillborn baby.  The entire ordeal was tortuous for Severina and her family.

Cadernos de Saúde Pública, Secular state, conscientious objection and public health policies, by Débora Diniz, Sept 2013.
Severina’s Story, Documentary film, 22 mins (Uma História Severina)
Ciência & Saúde Coletiva, Legal Abortion Services in Brazil – a National Study, by Alberto Pereira Madeiro and Débora Diniz, , Feb 2016