The XX Factor

One Way to Get a Safe Abortion in Brazil: Pretend You’ve Been Raped

A pro-choice Brazilian woman protests her country’s abortion ban.

Photo by Tasso Marcelo/AFP/Getty Images

An anonymous woman has gone public with her story about falsely claiming to have been raped to get an abortion in Brazil, where abortion is illegal in most other circumstances. Jill Filipovic and Ana Siedschlag interviewed the woman, going by the name of Juliana, in Cosmopolitan, where she talked about the lengths she was willing to go to in order to obtain a safe abortion:

I tried lots of contacts. I found a lot of dodgy people, and I found 1,000 medicines that could help me out, but everything looked dangerous. My worst fear wasn’t dying. My worst fear was the abortion not happening and having a baby that was born with problems.


She tried a number of herbal and over-the-counter remedies, but nothing worked, so she finally caved and decided to lie to the police about being raped:


The chief arrived to interview me. A friend of mine was raped two weeks before this happened, so I told a version of her story to the chief — I told him a stranger raped me near a relative’s house. …

He told my boyfriend he should be patient with me right now because I would suffer a lot, and that we should be strong and that he would do anything to help me. I felt safe with him — he was a light of hope after all I had been through. I felt really guilty lying to such a kind person.


The ruse worked, and she was able to obtain one of the extremely rare rape exemptions in Brazil’s harsh ban on abortion. She is adamant that she did the right thing, an act of civil disobedience, arguing, “I would recommend Brazilian women file false rape reports if they want to have abortions.” She believes that, since the system is so unfair to women, women are well within their rights to play the system in order to get the safe health care they need.

For those who think false rape reports are much more common than they actually are: It’s important to remember that this woman did not accuse anyone, but made up a stranger in the bushes. She also rejects the danger that false rape reports could cause—as they did in the Duke lacrosse case—since she lives in Brazil, where she says there’s not much enthusiasm for prosecuting rape. “The system is corrupt,” she writes. “The police don’t investigate, and this is what we have to do — it’s the safest way.”

The real issue here is not that this woman lied to the police about something as serious as rape, but rather that she was forced to make the choice between dangerous and wrong—that the Brazilian government, by banning abortion, puts women in this impossible situation where there are no good options. If women have to cheat and lie to get abortions, the ultimate blame lays with the government that won’t allow them to exercise their reproductive rights freely.