Since 1940, abortion has been legal in Brazil only on the grounds of rape or incest, or to save the life of the woman.

In recent years, Brazil's public health system has expanded its support of legal abortion services, but the vast majority of illegal abortions are carried out in private clinics.

In December 1999, Brazil's National Health Conference, which convenes every four years, made a formal recommendation for the decriminalization to the Ministry of Health, as a result of feminist (September 28th Campaign) lobbying at the municipal level.

The strategy was to ensure pro-abortion representation on local health councils, the bodies that supply delegates to the national meeting.

There are nine bills currently (as of late 2003) under congressional review. Some are for widening access to abortion and others promoting pro-life agendas. President Lula da Silva of Brazil is committed to making access to abortion a public health priority, but his coalition government contains Catholics and evangelical Christians opposed to liberalizing the law.