New laws lower minimum age for sterilization surgery

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From this Monday, a new law allows a tubal ligation or a vasectomy to be performed in Brazil without the prior consent of the partner. The minimum age for such permanent birth control procedures has also been lowered from 25 to 21, or for anyone with two living children, regardless of age.

The number of tubal ligations in Brazil has been growing fast. Until 2017, about 65,000 procedures were performed each year. This number rose to 108,400 in 2021, according to data from the public health system — an increase of more than 60 percent, while the number of women of childbearing age grew by 1.5 percent. 

Despite being less in demand, the number of vasectomies also doubled from one year to the next. There were 25,000 procedures in 2020 and 51,500 in 2021.

States in the North and Northeast have seen the highest rates in sterilization in recent years. They are Brazil’s poorest states. Experts claim that this reflects flaws in public policy on contraception, which fails to provide viable alternatives. Tubal ligation is the main contraceptive method for 17.3 percent of the female population between 15 and 49 years old, according to the 2019 National Health Survey.

Demographic data also shows that Brazil’s fertility rates have plunged, from over six births per woman in 1960 to just 1.65 in 2020. Among other reasons, a growing number of women are choosing to have children later in life, after the age of 30, and prefer to focus on work and study over raising a large family.

In the past few years, the number of babies born per year in Brazil has decreased, while the elderly population is increasing. The loosening of rules surrounding permanent birth control procedures may be a further factor in this population shift. 

With fewer Brazilians being born, the country will have to grapple with the massive impact that a large elderly population will have on its pension and healthcare systems.

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