Document Type


Publication Date



Abortion Rights, Misoprostol, Brazil, Self-Managed Abortion, Abortion Criminalization, Public Health Policy


This article explores the criminal regulation of misoprostol as a controlled drug in Brazil as a new form of abortion criminalization. A qualitative analysis of Brazilian case law shows how the courts use a public health rhetoric of unsafe abortion to criminalize the distribution of misoprostol in the informal sector. Rather than an invention of the local bench, this judicial rhetoric reflects global public health discourse and policy on unsafe abortion and the double life of misoprostol as both an essential medicine and a controlled drug. In contrast to previous studies, the article shows that abortion criminalization is not the cause, but rather the consequence of misoprostol’s double life. In the last section, it draws on an outlier judgment of the case law to chart a regulatory future for misoprostol and its supply in the informal sector as a site of harm reduction and safe abortion in public health policy.