A fortaleza dentro da Fortaleza: Part 1

 (a strength within Fortaleza)

Two women from Fortaleza walk into a clinic. 

Their lives outside the door existed worlds apart in the same city. But walking inside, their differences became trivial in the new situation they found themselves in.

They were both young mothers, both had been raped, and both wanted to terminate the pregnancy that resulted from the assault. They both were being drawn through the onerous path of seeking a legal medical abortion in Brazil*. They were both resolute in their decision. They had to be, or it’s unlikely they would make it through the process.

A process, which forces them to divulge the details of the violent event multiple times, to multiple people; to meet with a psychiatrist, a social worker, and a nurse, who then pass her on to the doctor, who then passes her to the ultrasound specialists. There, they insert a large probe into her vagina to measure the gestation age of the fetus in order to verify her story and timeline as truthful. She lies in the dark, eyes pinned to the ceiling above, as the fetus’ heartbeat plays from the machine, echoing off walls around her.

From there she is passed back to the doctor, who then passes her back to the psychiatrist, social worker, and nurse who have her sign multiple documents to double, triple and quadruple check that she understands her decision. Even after all this, today will not be the day both of them had prepared themselves for. There will still be time to change their minds, four days in fact, or weeks even, if they wanted to ponder this longer.

They both shook their heads.

They would be back after the weekend.

Why the weekend? The doctor and staff who oversee at these cases of pregnancy terminations do not work on the weekends. In the rare case that a patient had to stay in the hospital, they wouldn’t want her care to be taken over by just whoever was working.

As doctor explained to them both:

know that while you are with our team, everyone you pass through is here to help and care for you in any way we legally can. But not every medical profession will support the decision you are making, and some of them will make sure to tell you so. In these cases, tem que ter fortaleza [you have to be strong].

Two women from a clinic walk into fortaleza




*There are three legal exceptions Brazil has to its strict anti-abortion laws: (1) in the case of sexual violence, (2) when the life of the mother is at risk, or (3) when the fetus is “incompatible with life”, which is only considered for anencephaly.

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