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International status of abortion law ██ Legal on demand ██ Legal for rape, maternal life, health, mental health, socioecomic factors, and/or fetal defects ██ Legal for or illegal with exception for rape, maternal life, health, fetal defects, and/or mental health ██ Illegal with exception for rape, maternal life, health, and/or mental health ██ Illegal with exception for maternal life, health, and/or mental health ██ Illegal with no exceptions ██ Varies by region ██ No information

Abortion law is legislation which pertains to the provision of abortion. Abortion has at times emerged as a controversial subject in various societies because of the moral and ethical issues that surround it, though other considerations, such as a state's pro- or antinatalist policies or questions of inheritance and patriarchy, also dictate abortion law and regulation. It has been regularly banned and otherwise limited, though abortions have continued to be commonplace in many areas where it is illegal. Almost 2/3 of the world’s women currently reside in countries where abortion may be obtained on request, for a broad range of social, economic or personal reasons. Abortion laws vary widely by country, ranging from Chile, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Malta, and Vatican City, which ban the procedure entirely, to Canada, which places no restrictions on the provision of abortion whatsoever. Both supporters and opponents of legal abortion believe their position addresses a fundamental human right.

History[edit | edit source]

Abortion law
Scale of justice.png
Part of the abortion series
History & overview
Case law
History of abortion law
Laws by country
Types of regulation
Buffer zones
Conscience clauses
Fetal protection
Informed consent
Late-term restrictions
Parental involvement
Spousal consent


By the early 20th century, many countries had begun to legalize abortions when performed to protect the life of the woman, and in some cases to protect the health of the woman. Under Vladimir Lenin, the Soviet Union legalized all abortions in 1920, but this was fully reversed in 1936 by Joseph Stalin in order to increase population growth. Iceland was the first Western country to legalize therapeutic abortion under limited circumstances, doing so in 1935, and the earliest country to do so without recriminalizing it later. Only a handful of countries – mostly in Scandinavia —decriminalized abortion before Britain did so in 1967. Other countries soon followed, including Canada (1969), the United States (1973 in most states, pursuant to the federal Supreme Court decision which legalized abortion nationwide), France (1975), Austria (1975),New Zealand (1977), Italy (1978) and the Netherlands (1980). However, these countries vary greatly in the circumstances under which abortion is permitted. In 1975, the West German Supreme Court struck down a law legalizing abortion, holding that they contradict the constitution's human rights guarantees. After Germany's reunification, despite the legal status of abortion in the former East Germany, a compromise was reached which deemed most abortions illegal but does not penalize it under certain circumstances.

International law[edit | edit source]

In addition to national and regional laws, there are multi-national and international treaties, conventions, and laws that may actually be enforced on or within signatory nations. However, there is an inherent difficulty in the enforcement of international law due to the issue that state sovereignty poses. As such, the effectiveness of even binding multi-national efforts to legislate the rights to life and liberty in general, or abortion in specific, is difficult to measure. Examples of such efforts that have or might have bearing for abortion law, nationally or internationally, include:

  • The 1994 Programme of Action states, in paragraph 8.25, "In no case should abortion be promoted as a method of family planning. . . Any measures or changes related to abortion within the health system can only be determined at the national or local level according to the national legislative process. In circumstances where abortion is not against the law, such abortion should be safe." The nonbinding document was adopted by at least 179 countries at the United Nations International Conference on Population and Development held in Cairo, Egypt.
  • The 1995 Beijing Platform for Action states, in paragraph 96, “The human rights of women include their right to have control over and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality, including sexual and reproductive health, free of coercion, discrimination and violence.” The nonbinding document has been adopted by 189 countries at the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing, China. It calls upon nations in which abortion remains illegal to reconsider laws that punish women, but does not specifically advocate the legalization of abortion.

National laws[edit | edit source]

The following series of tables present the current abortion legislation of the world's nations as divided by continent. Actual access to abortion may vary significantly on the basis of geography, income, cost, health care, social factors, and other issues. Many jurisdictions also place other restrictions on abortion access, including waiting periods, the provision of information, the assent of multiple doctors, and spousal or parental notification.

Legend

  • Yes - Legal
  • No - Illegal
  • * - Legal during 1st trimester only (exact date may vary)
  • # - Legal during 1st and 2nd trimester only (exact date may vary)
  • Restricted - Legal but subject to significant restrictions
  • Varies - Varies by region
  •  ? - Information is unavailable or the law is too ambiguous

Africa[edit | edit source]

Country To Protect Woman's Life Physical Health Mental Health Rape Fetal Defects Socio-economic factors On Demand
Algeria Yes # # No No No No
Angola * No No No No No No
Benin Yes Yes ? Yes Yes No No
Botswana Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No
Burkina Faso Yes Yes Yes * Yes No No
Burundi Yes Yes ? No No No No
Cameroon Yes Yes ? Yes No No No
Cape Verde Yes Yes Yes * Yes * *
Central African Republic Yes No No No No No No
Chad Yes Yes ? No Yes No No
Comoros Yes Yes ? No No No No
Congo (Brazzaville) Yes No No No No No No
Congo (Kinshasa) Yes No No No No No No
Côte d'Ivoire Yes No No No No No No
Djibouti Yes ? ? No No No No
Egypt Restricted No No No No No No
Equatorial Guinea Yes Yes ? No No No No
Eritrea Yes Yes ? No No No No
Ethiopia Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No
Gabon Yes No No No No No No
Gambia Yes Yes Yes No No No No
Ghana Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No
Guinea Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No
Guinea-Bissau Yes * * * * * *
Kenya Restricted Restricted Restricted No No No No
Lesotho Yes No No No No No No
Liberia Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No
Libya Yes No No No No No No
Madagascar Yes No No No No No No
Malawi Restricted No No No No No No
Mali Yes No No Yes No No No
Mauritania Yes No No No No No No
Mauritius Yes No No No No No No
Morocco * * * No No No No
Mozambique Yes Yes Yes No No No * (illegal, but selectively allowed)[2]
Namibia Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No
Niger Yes No No No No No No
Nigeria Yes Yes Yes No No No No
Rwanda Yes Yes Yes No No No No
São Tomé and Príncipe * No No No No No No
Senegal Yes No No No No No No
Seychelles * * * * * No No
Sierra Leone Yes Yes Yes No No No No
Somalia Yes No No No No No No
South Africa # # # # # # *
Sudan Yes No No Yes No No No
Swaziland Yes No No No No No No
Tanzania Yes Yes Yes No No No No
Togo * ? ? ? ? No No
Tunisia * * * * * * *
Uganda Yes Yes Yes No No No No
Western Sahara ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
Zambia Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes No
Zimbabwe Yes Yes No Yes Yes No No

Asia[edit | edit source]

Country To Protect Woman's Life Physical Health Mental Health Rape Fetal Defects Socio-economic factors On Demand
Afghanistan Yes No No No No No No
Bangladesh Yes * * * * * *
Bhutan ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
Cambodia Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
China Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Hong Kong Yes Yes Yes Yes No No No
India Yes Yes # # # # No
Indonesia Yes No No No No No No
Japan # # # # # # No
Kazakhstan # # # # # # *
Kyrgyzstan # # # # # # *
Laos Yes No No No No No No
Malaysia * * * No No No No
Mongolia Restricted Restricted * * * * *
Myanmar Yes No No No No No No
Nepal Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes * *
North Korea Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Pakistan Yes Yes Yes No No No No
Philippines Yes No No No No No No
Singapore Yes Yes Yes # # # #
South Korea Restricted Restricted Restricted Restricted Restricted Restricted Restricted
Sri Lanka Yes No No No No No No
Tajikistan # # # # # # *
Thailand Yes Yes Yes Yes No No No
Turkmenistan # # # # # # *
Uzbekistan # # # # # # *
Vietnam Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

Caribbean[edit | edit source]

Country To Protect Woman's Life Physical Health Mental Health Rape Fetal Defects Socio-economic factors On Demand
Antigua and Barbuda * No No No No No No
Bahamas Yes Yes Yes ? ? No No
Barbados Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Cuba * * * * * * *
Dominica Yes No No No No No No
Dominican Republic Yes No No No No No No
Grenada Yes Yes Yes No No No No
Haiti Yes ? No ? ? No No
Jamaica Restricted Restricted Restricted No No No No
Puerto Rico Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Saint Kitts and Nevis Yes Yes Yes No No No No
Saint Lucia Yes Yes Yes No No No No
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Trinidad and Tobago Yes Yes Yes No No No No

Europe[edit | edit source]

Country To Protect Woman's Life Physical Health Mental Health Rape Fetal Defects Socio-economic factors On Demand
Albania Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Andorra Yes No No No No No No
Armenia # # # # # # *
Austria Yes Yes Yes * Yes * *
Azerbaijan Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes *
Belgium Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Belarus Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Bosnia and Herzegovina Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Bulgaria Yes # * * Yes * *
Croatia Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Cyprus Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes ? No
Czech Republic # # * * # * *
Denmark Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Estonia Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Faroe Islands # No No # # No No
Finland Yes Yes Yes # # # No
France Yes Yes Yes * Yes * *
Georgia # # # # # # *
Country To Protect Woman's Life Physical Health Mental Health Rape Fetal Defects Socio-economic factors On Demand
Germany Yes Yes * Yes Yes * * (illegal, but not punished)
Greece Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Hungary Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Iceland Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Ireland, Republic of Yes No No No No No No
Italy Yes Yes Yes * Yes * *
Latvia Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Liechtenstein Yes Yes Yes No No No No
Lithuania Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Luxembourg Yes Restricted Restricted Restricted Restricted Restricted No
Macedonia Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Malta No No No No No No No
Moldova Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes *
Monaco Yes No No No No No No
Netherlands Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Norway Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes *
Northern Ireland[3] Yes Yes Yes No No No No
Poland Yes Yes No * # No No
Portugal Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes * Yes
Romania Yes Yes * * * * *
Russia Yes Yes Yes # Yes # *
Country To Protect Woman's Life Physical Health Mental Health Rape Fetal Defects Socio-economic factors On Demand
San Marino Yes No No No No No No
Serbia and Montenegro Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Slovakia # # * # # * *
Slovenia Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Spain Yes Yes Yes * # No No
Sweden Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Switzerland Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes * *
Turkey Yes Yes Yes * Yes * *
Ukraine # # # # # # *
United Kingdom (England and Wales
and Scotland only)
Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Vatican City[4] No No No No No No No

Middle East[edit | edit source]

Country To Protect Woman's Life Physical Health Mental Health Rape Fetal Defects Socio-economic factors On Demand
Bahrain Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Iran Yes No No No No No No
Iraq Restricted No No No Restricted No No
Israel Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No
Jordan Yes Yes Yes No No No No
Kuwait Restricted Restricted Restricted No Restricted No No
Lebanon Yes No No No No No No
Oman Yes No No No No No No
Qatar Yes Yes Yes No Restricted No No
Saudi Arabia * Restricted Restricted No No No No
Syria Restricted No No No No No No
United Arab Emirates Restricted No No No No No No
Yemen Yes No No No No No No

North America[edit | edit source]

Country To Protect Woman's Life Physical Health Mental Health Rape Fetal Defects Socio-economic factors On Demand
Belize Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes No
Canada Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Costa Rica Yes Yes ? No No No No
El Salvador Yes No No No No No No
Guatemala Yes No No No No No No
Honduras Restricted No No No No No No
Mexico Yes Varies Varies * * Varies Varies
Nicaragua No No No No No No No
Panama Yes Yes No * Yes No No
United States Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Varies

Australasia and Oceania[edit | edit source]

Country To Protect Woman's Life Physical Health Mental Health Rape Fetal Defects Socio-economic factors On Demand
Australia Yes Varies Varies Varies Varies Varies Varies
Brunei Yes No No No No No No
Cook Islands Yes Yes Yes No No No No
Fiji Yes Yes Yes ? ? Yes No
Kiribati Yes No No No No No No
Maldives Restricted Restricted No No No No No
Marshall Islands Restricted No No No No No No
Micronesia Yes No No No No No No
Nauru Restricted Restricted Restricted No No No No
New Zealand Yes Yes Yes # # No No
Niue Yes ? ? No No No No
Palau Yes No No No No No No
Papua New Guinea * * * No No No No
Samoa Yes Yes Yes No No No No
Solomon Islands Restricted No No No No No No
Tonga Yes No No No No No No
Tuvalu Yes No No No No No No
Vanuatu Yes Yes Yes No No No No

South America[edit | edit source]

Country To Protect Woman's Life Physical Health Mental Health Rape Fetal Defects Socio-economic factors On Demand
Argentina Yes Yes No Restricted No No No
Bolivia Yes Yes ? Yes No No No
Brazil Yes Yes No Yes No No No
Chile No No No No No No No
Colombia Yes Restricted ? Yes Restricted No No
Ecuador Yes Yes ? Restricted No No No
Guyana Yes Yes Yes Yes * * *
Paraguay Yes No No No No No No
Peru Yes Yes Yes No No No No
Suriname Yes No No No No No No
Uruguay Yes Yes * * No * No
Venezuela Yes No No No No No No

See also[edit | edit source]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. (March 6, 1981). Resolution 23/81. Retrieved October 27, 2006.
  2. Libombo, Aida, &, Bay Ustá, Momade. (2001). Mozambique Abortion Situation. Retrieved October 27, 2006.
  3. Q&A: Abortion in NI. (June 13 , 2001). BBC News. Retrieved October 27, 2006.
  4. United Nations Population Division. (1999). World Abortion Policies 1999. Retrieved January 24, 2007.

References[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]


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