Abortion lawInternational status of abortion law Legal on request 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.
- 1 History
- 2 International law
- 3 National laws
- 4 Legal restrictions on later abortion
- 5 Case law
- 6 See also
- 7 Notes
- 8 References
- 9 External links
HistoryAbortion law Part of the abortionseries History & overview Case law
History of abortion law
Laws by countryTypes of regulation Buffer zones
Abortion and contraception have been widely available throughout the history of Western Civilization, despite ethical concerns on the part of some. Plato and Aristotle both argued in favor of compulsory abortion under certain circumstances, though Hippocrates expressly disapproved of the practice. Under Roman law, abortion sometimes occurred but family planning was conducted mainly through the exposure of healthy newborns--usually to protect the rights and interests of the biological father. References to abortion were included in the writings of Ovid, Seneca, Juvenal and Pliny, who included a list of abortifacients (drugs that induce an abortion) in one text. Early Christian philosophers, including Ivo of Chartres and Gratian, disapproved of abortion when it broke the link between the sexual act and procreation but argued that abortion of what Ivo termed an "unformed embryo" did not constitute homicide.
Religious authorities have taken various positions on abortion throughout history (see Religion and abortion). In 1588, Pope Sixtus V adopted a papal bull adopting the position of St. Thomas Aquinas that contraception and abortion were crimes against nature and sins against marriage. This verdict was relaxed three years later by Pope Gregory XIV, who pronounced that abortion before "hominization" should not be subject to church penalties that were any stricter than civil penalties. Common law positions on abortion in individual countries varied significantly from country to country.
As a matter of common law in England and the United States, abortion was illegal anytime after quickening — when the movements of the fetus could first be felt by the woman. In the 19th Century, many Western countries began to use statutes to codify or further restrictions on abortion. Anti-abortion forces were led by a combination of conservative groups opposed to abortion on moral grounds and medical professionals who were concerned about the danger presented by the procedure and the regular involvement of non-medical personnel in performing abortions.
It became clear in the following years, however, that illegal abortions continued to take place in large numbers even where abortions were expressly illegal. It was difficult to obtain sufficient evidence to prosecute the women and abortion doctors, and judges and juries were often reluctant to convict. Henry Morgentaler, for instance, was never convicted by a jury. Many were also outraged at the invasion of privacy and the medical problems resulting from abortions taking place illegally in medically dangerous circumstances. Political movements soon coalesced around the legalization of abortion and liberalization of existing laws.
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), the Netherlands (1980) and Belgium (1990). 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.
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 1978 American Convention on Human Rights states, in Article 4.1, "Every person has the right to have his life respected. This right shall be protected by law and, in general, from the moment of conception." The Convention is considered binding only for the 24 of 35 member nations of the Organization of American States who ratified it. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights found that the words "in general" left room for individual nations to determine their own abortion legislation.
- 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.
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.
- Yes - Legal
- No - Illegal
- 1st - Legal during 1st trimester only (exact date — e.g. number of weeks — may vary)
- 2nd - 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
AfricaCountry To protect woman's life Physical health Mental health Rape Fetal defects Socio-economic factors On request AlgeriaYes 2nd 2nd No No No No Angola1st No No No No No No BeninYes Yes ? Yes Yes No No BotswanaYes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No Burkina FasoYes Yes Yes 1st Yes No No BurundiYes Yes ? No No No No CameroonYes Yes ? Yes No No No Cape VerdeYes Yes Yes 1st Yes 1st 1st Central African RepublicYes No No No No No No ChadYes Yes ? No Yes No No ComorosYes 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'IvoireYes No No No No No No DjiboutiYes ? ? No No No No EgyptRestricted No No No No No No Equatorial GuineaYes Yes ? No No No No EritreaYes Yes ? No No No No EthiopiaYes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No GabonYes No No No No No No GambiaYes Yes Yes No No No No GhanaYes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No GuineaYes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No Guinea-BissauYes 1st 1st 1st 1st 1st 1st KenyaRestricted Restricted Restricted No No No No LesothoYes No No No No No No LiberiaYes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No LibyaYes No No No No No No MadagascarYes No No No No No No MalawiRestricted No No No No No No MaliYes No No Yes No No No MauritaniaYes No No No No No No MauritiusYes No No No No No No Morocco1st 1st 1st No No No No MozambiqueYes Yes Yes No No No 1st (illegal, but selectively allowed)NamibiaYes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No NigerYes No No No No No No NigeriaYes Yes Yes No No No No RwandaYes Yes Yes No No No No São Tomé and Príncipe1st No No No No No No SenegalYes No No No No No No Seychelles1st 1st 1st 1st 1st No No Sierra LeoneYes Yes Yes No No No No SomaliaYes No No No No No No South Africa2nd 2nd 2nd 2nd 2nd 2nd 1st SudanYes No No Yes No No No SwazilandYes No No No No No No TanzaniaYes Yes Yes No No No No Togo1st ? ? ? ? No No Tunisia1st 1st 1st 1st 1st 1st 1st UgandaYes Yes Yes No No No No Western Sahara? ? ? ? ? ? ? ZambiaYes Yes Yes No Yes Yes No ZimbabweYes Yes No Yes Yes No No
AsiaCountry To protect woman's life Physical health Mental health Rape Fetal defects Socio-economic factors On request AfghanistanYes No No No No No No BangladeshYes 1st 1st 1st 1st 1st 1st BhutanYes No No No No No No BruneiYes No No No No No No CambodiaYes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes ChinaYes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Hong KongYes Yes Yes Yes No No No IndiaYes Yes 2nd 2nd 2nd 2nd No IndonesiaYes No No No No No No JapanYES 2nd 2nd 2nd 2nd 2nd No Kazakhstan2nd 2nd 2nd 2nd 2nd 2nd 1st Kyrgyzstan2nd 2nd 2nd 2nd 2nd 2nd 1st LaosYes No No No No No No Malaysia1st 1st 1st No No No No MongoliaRestricted Restricted 1st 1st 1st 1st 1st MyanmarYes No No No No No No NepalYes Yes Yes Yes Yes 1st 1st North KoreaYes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes PakistanYes Yes Yes No No No No PhilippinesYes No No No No No No SingaporeYes Yes Yes 2nd 2nd 2nd 2nd South KoreaYes Yes Yes Yes No No No (but not punished) Sri LankaYes No No No No No No Tajikistan2nd 2nd 2nd 2nd 2nd 2nd 1st ThailandYes Yes Yes Yes No No No Turkmenistan2nd 2nd 2nd 2nd 2nd 2nd 1st Uzbekistan2nd 2nd 2nd 2nd 2nd 2nd 1st VietnamYes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
CaribbeanCountry To protect woman's life Physical health Mental health Rape Fetal defects Socio-economic factors On request Antigua and Barbuda1st No No No No No No BahamasYes Yes Yes ? ? No No BarbadosYes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Cuba1st 1st 1st 1st 1st 1st 1st DominicaYes No No No No No No Dominican RepublicYes No No No No No No GrenadaYes Yes Yes No No No No HaitiYes ? No ? ? No No JamaicaRestricted Restricted Restricted No No No No Puerto RicoYes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Saint Kitts and NevisYes Yes Yes No No No No Saint LuciaYes Yes Yes No No No No Saint Vincent and the GrenadinesYes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Trinidad and TobagoYes Yes Yes No No No No
EuropeCountry To protect woman's life Physical health Mental health Rape Fetal defects Socio-economic factors On request AlbaniaYes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes AndorraYes No No No No No No Armenia2nd 2nd 2nd 2nd 2nd 2nd 1st AustriaYes Yes Yes 1st Yes 1st 1st (illegal, but not punished) AzerbaijanYes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes 1st BelgiumYes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes BelarusYes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Bosnia and HerzegovinaYes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes BulgariaYes 2nd 1st 1st Yes 1st 1st CroatiaYes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes CyprusYes Yes Yes Yes Yes ? No Czech Republic2nd 2nd 1st 1st 2nd 1st 1st DenmarkYes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes EstoniaYes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Faroe Islands2nd No No 2nd 2nd No No FinlandYes Yes Yes 2nd 2nd 2nd No FranceYes Yes Yes 1st Yes 1st 1st Georgia2nd 2nd 2nd 2nd 2nd 2nd 1st GermanyYes Yes 1st Yes Yes 1st 1st (illegal, but not punished) Great BritainYes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No GreeceYes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes HungaryYes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes IcelandYes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No IrelandYes No No No No No No ItalyYes Yes Yes 1st Yes 1st 1st LatviaYes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes LiechtensteinYes Yes Yes No No No No LithuaniaYes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes LuxembourgYes Restricted Restricted Restricted Restricted Restricted No MacedoniaYes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes MaltaNo No No No No No No MoldovaYes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes 1st MonacoYes No No No No No No MontenegroYes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes NetherlandsYes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes NorwayYes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes 1st Northern IrelandYes Yes Yes No No No No PolandYes Yes No 1st 2nd No No Portugal2nd 2nd 1st 2nd 2nd 1st 1st RomaniaYes Yes 1st 1st 1st 1st 1st RussiaYes Yes Yes 2nd Yes 2nd 1st San MarinoYes No No No No No No SerbiaYes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Slovakia2nd 2nd 1st 2nd 2nd 1st 1st SloveniaYes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes SpainYes Yes Yes 1st 2nd No No SwedenYes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes SwitzerlandYes Yes Yes Yes Yes 1st 1st TurkeyYes Yes Yes 1st Yes 1st 1st Ukraine2nd 2nd 2nd 2nd 2nd 2nd 1st Vatican CityNo No No No No No No
Middle EastCountry To protect woman's life Physical health Mental health Rape Fetal defects Socio-economic factors On request BahrainYes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes IranYes No No No No No No IraqRestricted No No No Restricted No No IsraelYes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No JordanYes Yes Yes No No No No KuwaitRestricted Restricted Restricted No Restricted No No LebanonYes Yes Yes Yes No No No OmanNo No No No No No No QatarYes Yes Yes No Restricted No No Saudi Arabia1st Restricted Restricted No No No No SyriaRestricted No No No No No No United Arab EmiratesRestricted No No No No No No YemenYes No No No No No No
North and Central AmericaCountry To protect woman's life Physical health Mental health Rape Fetal defects Socio-economic factors On request BelizeYes Yes Yes No Yes Yes No CanadaYes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Costa RicaYes Yes ? No No No No El SalvadorYes No No No No No No GuatemalaYes No No No No No No HondurasRestricted No No No No No No MexicoYes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Varies NicaraguaNo No No No No No No PanamaYes Yes No 1st Yes No No United StatesYes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Varies
Australasia and OceaniaCountry To protect woman's life Physical health Mental health Rape Fetal defects Socio-economic factors On request AustraliaYes Varies Varies Varies Varies Varies Varies Cook IslandsYes Yes Yes No No No No FijiYes Yes Yes ? ? Yes No KiribatiYes No No No No No No MaldivesRestricted Restricted No No No No No Marshall IslandsRestricted No No No No No No Federated States of MicronesiaYes No No No No No No NauruRestricted Restricted Restricted No No No No New ZealandYes 2nd 2nd 2nd 2nd Restricted No NiueYes ? ? No No No No PalauYes No No No No No No Papua New Guinea1st 1st 1st No No No No SamoaYes Yes Yes No No No No Solomon IslandsRestricted No No No No No No TongaYes No No No No No No TuvaluYes No No No No No No VanuatuYes Yes Yes No No No No
South AmericaCountry To protect woman's life Physical health Mental health Rape Fetal defects Socio-economic factors On request ArgentinaYes Yes No Restricted No No No BoliviaYes Yes ? Yes No No No BrazilYes Yes No Yes No No No ChileNo No No No No No No ColombiaYes Restricted ? Yes Restricted No No EcuadorYes Yes Yes Restricted No No No GuyanaYes Yes Yes Yes 1st 1st 1st ParaguayYes No No No No No No PeruYes Yes Yes No No No No SurinameYes No No No No No No UruguayYes Yes 1st 1st No 1st No VenezuelaYes No No No No No No
Legal restrictions on later abortion
- See also: Late-term abortion
As of 1998, among the 152 most populous countries, 54 either banned abortion entirely or permitted it only to save the life of the pregnant woman. In contrast, another 44 of the 152 most populous countries generally banned late-term abortions after a particular gestational age: 12 weeks (Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cuba, Czech Rep., Denmark, Estonia, France, Georgia, Greece, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Rep., Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Mongolia, Norway, Russian Fed., Slovak Rep., Slovenia, South Africa, Ukraine, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Yugoslavia), 13 weeks (Italy), 14 weeks (Austria, Belgium, Cambodia, Germany, Hungary, and Romania), 18 weeks (Sweden), viability (Netherlands and to some extent the United States), and 24 weeks (Singapore and the United Kingdom [Northern Ireland excluded]).
- R v Davidson (1969)
- Abortion trial of Emily Stowe (1879)
- Azoulay v. The Queen (1952)
- Morgentaler v. The Queen (1976)
- R. v. Morgentaler (1988)
- Borowski v. Canada (Attorney General) (1989)
- Tremblay v. Daigle (1989)
- R. v. Morgentaler (1993)
- Attorney General v. X (1992)
- Roe v. Wade (1973)
- Doe v. Bolton (1973)
- H. L. v. Matheson (1981)
- City of Akron v. Akron Center for Reproductive Health (1983)
- Webster v. Reproductive Health Services (1989)
- Hodgson v. Minnesota (1990)
- Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992)
- Bray v. Alexandria Women's Health Clinic (1993)
- Stenberg v. Carhart (2000)
- McCorvey v. Hill (2004)
- Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood of New England (2006)
- Gonzales v. Carhart (2007)
- Abortion by country
- Abortion debate
- History of abortion
- Mexico City Policy
- Religion and abortion
- Roe effect
- Henry Morgentaler
- Wrongful abortion
- ^ Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. (March 6, 1981). Resolution 23/81. Retrieved October 27, 2006.
- ^ Libombo, Aida, &, Bay Ustá, Momade. (2001). Mozambique Abortion Situation. Retrieved October 27, 2006.
- ^ World Health Organization. (2005). Improving Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health in the South-East Asia Region. Retrieved October 3, 2007.
- ^ The Korean Law Blog (2007). Abortion in Korea. Retrieved October 3, 2007.
- ^ Q&A: Abortion in NI. (June 13 , 2001). BBC News. Retrieved October 27, 2006.
- ^ a b Anika Rahman, Laura Katzive and Stanley K. Henshaw. A Global Review of Laws on Induced Abortion, 1985-1997, International Family Planning Perspectives (Volume 24, Number 2, June 1998).
- Abortion Laws of the World. (n.d.). Annual Review of Population Law. Retrieved July 14, 2006.
- Rahman, Anika, Katzive, Laura, & Henshaw, Stanley K. (1998). A Global Review of Laws on Induced Abortion, 1985-1997. International Family Planning Perspectives, 24 (2). Retrieved July 14, 2006.
- United Nations Population Division. (2002). Abortion Policies: A Global Review. Retrieved July 14, 2006.
- IPPF European Network. (2004). Abortion Legislation in Europe. Retrieved October 27, 2006.
- Center for Reproductive Rights. (2005). Abortion and the Law: Ten Years of Reform. Retrieved November 22, 2006.
- The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. (November 2006). Abortion Laws Around The World. Retrieved April 18, 2007.
- Europe's Abortion Laws. (February 12, 2007). BBC News. Retrieved February 12, 2007.
- United Nations Population Division. (2007). World Abortion Policies 2007. Retrieved October 3, 2007.
- Ipas: Global Abortion News Update
- Center for Reproductive Rights: The World's Abortion Laws
- Pregnant Pause: Summary of Abortion Laws Around the World
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