Circus of Horrors

Abortion and other sensitive issues need to be taken seriously

Last week, reports showed that a ten-year-old girl was taken to a hospital in Espírito Santo, and doctors discovered that she was pregnant. According to an investigation, the child had been abused by a family friend for four years.

The case offers up a full plate for sensationalism. In fact, the far-right, conservative religious, and spotlight-seeking politicians tried to make it a circus of horrors.

It is not known how the information about the abortion was leaked. People opposed to abortion went to the door of the public maternity hospital where the procedure took place, in Recife, and tried to prevent it, in addition to harassing the unit's health professionals. It seems like the extreme right chooses pedophilia as the greatest evil, but, when it appears, do everything to look the other way.

The major media outlets provided sober and careful coverage of the case.

In Folha, the articles sought contextualization. The reporting clearly explained that Brazilian law authorizes abortion in cases of pregnancy resulting from rape, risk of death for the pregnant woman, or case of anencephaly of the fetus. Even so, medical or judicial interpretations can ensure that girls, adolescents, and women have their rights postponed or not even met.

One reader noted that, in the middle of phrases highlighted for the repercussion of the case, Folha included the insults spoken by Sara Giromini — an extremist who, according to the reader, should not have had one of her phrases included in the highlight.

Another point that drew attention was when Folha shared the suspect's statement, who said he had a relationship with the child since 2019. The word "relationship" was placed in quotation marks.

Since there is no possible sexual relationship with a child (the ten-year-old said she was raped since she was six), the quotes used to emphasize the statement can be confusing and even produce other effects, such as irony. It would be better if Folha had contextualized the statement: no matter what term the suspect wants to give, what happened is a crime.

The medical procedure started on Sunday (16). On the night of the same day, Folha published the name of the hospital where the girl was hospitalized.

Globo, which was more careful, did not publish the hospital's name even on Monday (17). In another good example, Jornal Nacional took a few seconds to say that it would not say the suspect's name due to the long history of abuse, nor would it identify him in any other way so as not to expose the girl and protect her from attacks.

In Brazil, according to official data, on average, six girls between the ages of 10 and 14 raped are hospitalized per day as a result of abortions. Illegal abortion, on the other hand, is a major cause of death among pregnant women, something that affects mainly poor and black women.

Still, pregnancy termination is generally discussed from a religious or moral perspective, not as a public health issue.

If society still does not seem prepared to have a peaceful debate on the issue, let the media continue to encourage it with the seriousness it deserves.

It is a pity that Folha itself abandoned this same seriousness when covering another topic that gained prominence throughout the week: the discussions about the mechanism for limiting public spending.

A shallow report on the subject was published on Tuesday (18). In it, bankers and managers anonymously say that Bolsonaro compares to Dilma, as the government spends more than it can.

After the report, an editorial published on Saturday (22) doubled the bet, defending fiscal austerity under the suggestive title "Jair Rousseff."

Dilma Rousseff believed that the policy of unbridled spending - which included such "redemptive programs for public works and social assistance," as the editorial says - would bring economic growth.

In almost two years of government, it is possible to say that Jair Bolsonaro is neither a liberal nor a developmentalist, but someone who will do whatever is necessary to reelect himself.

Folha, on the other hand, seems to use a childish device to change the president's mind, using something that he would consider offensive: the comparison with the former president.

For Dilma, it must be a circus of horrors to see her name associated with someone who, among other things, celebrates the torturer Brilhante Ustra and has already said, to return to the central theme of this text, that he would not rape a deputy because she does not deserve it.

Flavia Lima

Reporter specializing in economics, she graduated in social sciences from USP and in law from Mackenzie. She has been the ombudsman at Folha since May 2019.

Translated by Kiratiana Freelon