The Brazilian website, Gravidez Indesejada or Unwanted Pregnancy, is pink and white and has a stock image of a smiling woman who seems thrilled to take your call. But the site’s language has an urgency: “Do not waste any more time. To make your own choice in a difficult situation is your right!”
“Do not take UNNECESSARY RISKS,” it continues. “We have 20 years of experience in helping women with unwanted pregnancies. We can help you solve your problems quickly and safely; we want to remind you that right now every minute really counts.”
The website promises free personalized and confidential treatment and to answer any questions you have about drugs like Cytotec, the brand name for misoprostol, which can induce a miscarriage.
Abortion is illegal in Brazil, except in cases of rape, where the mother’s life is in danger, or when the fetus has a fatal brain defect. And even these strict conditions may change; a bill currently before Congress would outlaw abortion altogether. It should be no surprise, then, that four women, on average, die every day as the result of botched clandestine abortions. In this atmosphere, reliable advice is hard-to-come-by for pregnant women.
“We are the Women’s Association [Associação Mulher],” the site explains, “a non-profit organization with headquarters in several cities in Brazil and abroad. We help women with unwanted pregnancies by providing personalized care at a difficult time.”
Suspecting a trap—as nothing was said about specific help offered—myself and another reporter with Agência Pública began to investigate and scheduled a face-to-face appointment via the phone number on the website. A woman took my colleague’s information and told her she would only be informed of the address the day before the appointment. We both used our real names.
The center is located in old house located on a quiet street in a São Paulo suburb. We rang the bell and a woman in her 30s, who will call Maria, opened the door. After strolling past photos of popes, bishops, and saints that line the walls, Maria picked up a clipboard and started to ask my colleague for her personal data and about the baby’s gestational age. She said she was a volunteer and that a psychologist and her husband run the place.
I asked if the center is an NGO, a clinic, or connected to a church, and she replied they “do not embrace any flag.” After some pressing, she said they are “for life,” and my friend would be informed of all the risks of abortion and that it “is a path with no return.” She said they attend to three or four women a day, from sex workers to socialites.