Us For All Women

by: , June 25, 2022

© Camilla Cavalcante

Nós Por Todas, Portuguese for ‘Us For All Women,’ is a project that explores the idea of the female body as a confrontational space to expand the debate around abortion. In Brazil, abortion is only legal to save a woman’s life, in case of foetal development without a brain, and in cases of rape. Despite this prohibition, one in five women between 14 and 40 years old have had at least one abortion in their lives.

Within this context, and over the course of three years, I developed a network of 50 women in Brazil who shared their experiences and opinions about illegal abortion with me, and entered the debate on the right to abortion, while their identities remained protected. I created a series of nude self-portraits in which I am holding and hugging these women in their homes, with their backs facing the camera, while I reveal my face, exposing my body and my identity in their name.

The titles of the images refer to the year in which each woman experienced an illegal abortion. Each image is followed by a quote from the conversations I had with each one of the collaborators. The written word and the photographs give voice to these women’s stories, creating a political and intimate manifesto.


Us for All Women in 2005 


‘You face judgement from other people, all the way. On the journey that I have been through, I did not find a single person who understood me, no one gave me support through the situation.’


‘When I found out I was pregnant, I knew I didn’t want to have the baby. The father was the first person I talked to. His reaction was, ‘It’s not my problem.’ He was an idiot who didn’t have any empathy for the human being in front of him.

I didn’t know who else I could talk to. My family was putting a lot of pressure on me not to tell anyone. I talked to a doctor, and he only spoke to me about the moral side of having an abortion. He told me that what I was doing was wrong, as if any part of this hellish process was easy.’


Us for All Women in 2017-4


‘He said that he wanted to have a family with me, and that he loved me. Then, unexpectedly, he told me that wasn’t what he meant, that he was not ready to be a father, and that the choice to have the child or not was up to me.’


‘What choice was that? Have a baby alone again while he would be a father when it suited him, or not have a baby. I see that as an appropriation of feminist speech: it was convenient for him that the ‘choice’ was mine.

The moment I found out I was pregnant was when I needed him most. I made the choice to have an abortion because he said that he didn’t want to be with me anymore. I wanted to have a baby with him by my side, with his support. I didn’t want to change my life completely and end up on my own with a child.’


Us for All Women in 2011 


‘My story of terminating a pregnancy is a safe one: it was in a clinic, with a quick surgical procedure, painless and with no repercussions for my health. I was privileged to live in an environment that allowed me to empower myself to make this decision.


‘I had a socio-economic advantage, and was able to look for a place that would not scar me, that would not mutilate me, that would not leave me with any painful consequences of my decision.

It is a woman’s right. It is the expression of her autonomy to claim uncompromising power over her own body and the determination of her own future. It is overcoming motherhood as a biological destiny. We need to radically defend women as human beings, as complete and powerful agents who can exercise their right to life and freedom.’


Us for All Women in 2004 


‘I am not a religious person, therefore my perception of life includes multiple determinations: it is not just biological. I cannot see this as taking a life away or stopping the birth of a living being. For me, life involves many other questions: social relations, conditions to exist, emotional relations, etc. To live is different than just to exist.’


‘Abortion exists, so there’s nothing to discuss. If the legislation changes, the number of procedures would not increase, but the number of deaths would decline.

Although I think laws do not change reality, they have a large symbolic weight. Religion would continue to interfere, of course, but in terms of society and the way in which abortion is seen, I think things could shift. No one should impose their religion on others.’


Us for All Women in 2017-5


‘It was a sexual assault. It happened once before. He took me by force and I spent twenty minutes fighting, trying to get away. Then I let go, I was tired of fighting back. That time I got pregnant. He did it on purpose, because I told him that I was ovulating.’


‘I managed to get a legal abortion, but the process was psychological torture. I gave up twice, because two people came to convince me not to do it. You can change your mind about having an abortion, but you should do it for your own reasons, not because someone with different beliefs wants to influence your decision and your life. You can be easily persuaded by others when you are in a vulnerable situation, but it has to be your own choice.’


Us for All Women in 2006-2


‘Between 11 and 18 years old I was part of an evangelical Christian congregation and that was an issue, but I had to have that abortion for myself. Sorry, but I’m not going to think about God in that moment. It’s my decision, it’s my situation, it’s my life.’


‘I didn’t feel anything about the pregnancy at the time. The only thing I could think about was what I had to do to get out of the situation. I had to find a way out of that nightmare.

Although I was adamant that it was what I wanted, I spent a while blaming myself for the abortion. I thought I had committed a terrible sin because everyone around me viewed abortion as the taking of a ‘life.’ Yet, if I had chosen to have the child, no one would have helped me. It’s hypocritical.’


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