FIGO position statement on the recent prohibition of induction of fetal asystole for legal abortions in Brazil

In many countries around the world, women and girls facing the need for abortion at advanced gestational ages encounter significant barriers to accessing safe services. These women and girls are among the most vulnerable, are often subject to heightened stigma and persecution, and experience more severe complications and higher mortality rates when forced to resort to unsafe abortion practices. 

Restrictive laws that deviate from World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations against imposing time limits, coupled with a shortage of trained providers, further exacerbate injustices towards these individuals. In regions where legislation allows for safe abortion services in later stages of pregnancy, it is the ethical and professional obligation of health care professionals to uphold access and quality, and to challenge any barriers that aggravate existing structural factors. 

In Brazil, induced abortion is legal in three circumstances: when pregnancy is derived from rape, when there is risk to the pregnant woman’s life, and when there is a diagnosis of fetal anencephaly. Under these three circumstances, there is no gestational age limit to access the right to a safe abortion in the text of Brazilian law. However, the Brazilian Federal Council of Medicine recently issued a resolution that prohibits the induction of fetal asystole for legally induced abortions, undermining these rights.

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