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Another woman dies in Rio after seeking illegal abortion

Police believe a body that was found is that of Jandira dos Santos Cruz, 27, who disappeared on Aug. 26, 2014, after she left home to have an abortion in the neighbourhood of Campo Grande in the West Zone of Rio.

For the second time in a month, a woman has died in Rio de Janeiro after seeking an illegal abortion.

Elizangela Barbosa, 32, died in hospital on Sept. 21 after a botched procedure in a clinic, police say.

Adilson Palacio, a deputy commissioner in the city police homicide department, said Ms. Barbosa experienced complications at the clinic and an employee took her to hospital. The abortion was arranged by a neighbour of hers in a low-income neighbourhood; he is a nurse at the clinic and identified it to police, Mr. Palacio said.

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Ms. Barbosa's husband, Anderson da Silva, 27, told the Brazilian newspaper Extra that she was five months pregnant and had left home the day before to go to the clinic.

An estimated one million women terminate pregnancies in Brazil each year, although abortion is illegal except in cases of rape or a threat to the woman's health. About 250,000 women seek treatment in hospital for complications of illegal abortions each year.

Mr. da Silva said his wife had already tried to terminate the pregnancy using a drug. Half of the Brazilian women who seek to terminate pregnancies use black market misoprostol, according to a national survey done in 2010. But because they are buying the drug off-licence, women frequently use incorrect dosages and do not succeed in inducing abortion, which seems to be what happened to Ms. Barbosa, forcing her to seek a more complicated later-term surgical abortion.

Her husband said she took $1,300 with her to pay for the abortion, but then called him to say she needed $350 more.

Police said an autopsy found medical equipment in Ms. Barbosa's uterus, and a raid on the clinic where she went found expired medication, including veterinary drugs.

"Her biggest desire was to be financially independent, to dedicate herself only to the education of her children," Mr. da Silva told Extra. "There were work opportunities, but Elizangela knew she would not be hired because she was pregnant." The couple have three children.

Mr. Palacio, the police officer, said Mr. da Silva "unfortunately" would not face criminal charges in his wife's abortion and death. "Our law doesn't punish this kind of complicity – but morally, he can be punished, he certainly will be punished."

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Earlier this month, a woman's headless torso was found in the trunk of a car and police believe that the body was that of Jandira dos Santos Cruz, 27. She was last seen getting into a car, matching the description of the one in which the body was found, with a contact from an illegal clinic.

Police arrested the clinic nurse, her husband, who is a police officer, and two others in connection with her disappearance. Three other people – including a doctor who already faced criminal charges for performing illegal abortions – are evading arrest.

Ms. Cruz's family is waiting for DNA confirmation from police that the body – from which the teeth had also been removed – is hers; she sent her ex-husband panicked messages from the clinic before she disappeared.

Neither of these cases has yet prompted a response from the federal or Rio state governments.

While 15 per cent of Brazilian women have at least one illegal abortion in their lifetimes, 80 per cent of women say in opinion polls that the procedure should continue to be illegal. As a consequence, both Dilma Rousseff and Marina Silva, the two women facing off in a tight presidential election to be held next month, have insisted that the procedure must continue to be criminalized.

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About the Author
Latin America Bureau Chief

Stephanie Nolen is the Latin America correspondent for The Globe and Mail.After years as a roving correspondent that included coverage of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Stephanie moved to Johannesburg in 2003 to open a new bureau for The Globe, to report on what she believed was the world's biggest uncovered story, Africa's AIDS pandemic. More


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