The Body That Aborts: A History Or A Statistic?

October 19, 2021

BY Bruna David

A person swinging on a swing
Illustration by Linoca Souza for Fine Acts

When we talk about sexual rights and reproductive rights, one of the first topics we reflect on is the importance of abortion. Yes, the voluntary interruption of pregnancy. On the one hand, in most contexts and realities, it is a taboo subject full of prejudices and ignorance, and on the other hand, it is an important call of movements and women who try to deconstruct exactly these problematic realities. It is also important to note that abortion is used as a battle flag by the two opposing fields.

Defenders of morals and good customs use it as a form of control over bodies that abort while human rights movements use these same bodies as a flag of struggle and liberation. It is a topic that authorities, religions, and states feel comfortable intervening in, and in some cases, public policies are developed based on personal opinions on the subject, as we see in Brazil, where high-level politicians use the Christian faith to hinder access to sexual and reproductive justice (SRJ). 

In other words, the centrality of this subject is evident in discussions, movements, and demands. It’s not without reason, of course. If we take the reality of Brazil, we have many examples of people who have lost their lives or had sequelae of unsafe and clandestine abortions which are poorly performed because unfortunately, these victims have, for the most part, predetermined class and race.

Are we prepared, as a society, to talk about the experience of the body that aborts and not only about the violent data resulting from abortion and its consequences?

However, it is important that we stop and reflect on the dehumanization of this body that aborts. In many cases, they are called only “victims” or are turned into statistics for data analysis, without a body, without a name, without a story. Just a number. They are made into shadows of social violence perpetrated by state and/or religious conservative agents or fanatic people who can then use these numbers as a way to perpetuate oppression. On the other hand, advocates of human rights use this data as critical analysis usually within the academic environment with detachment

By this, I do not mean that there are no individuals/movements/groups who do the follow-up and care work for the body that aborts. The big problem is that they are criminalized or punished just like the people who have abortions themselves. That is, the real experience of abortion, the one that is lived in the bodies, of those who do or who accompanies and cares, is systematically made invisible and shaped into ideologies, flags of struggle, public policies which transform the need for safe abortion into a bureaucratic formality.

So, it is as if the legalization and/or decriminalization of abortion is in a sphere outside the everyday reality of ordinary people, being the agenda of people in power or who have the privilege of accessing these spaces that, in many cases, do not have the lived experience. The experience of everyday violence against marginalized bodies.

From these ideas, I would like to leave a reflection: Are we prepared, as a society, to talk about the experience of the body that aborts and not only about the violent data resulting from abortion and its consequences?