With Friday’s Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, the United States has joined only three other countries – El Salvador, Nicaragua and Poland – which have canceled the right to abortion since 1994, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights.
The big picture: Nearly 60 countries have liberalized their abortion laws – although some only gradually – over the past 25 years.
- The rollback of abortion rights has taken place in countries “where democracies have eroded”, said Margaret Harpin, legal adviser at the Center for Reproductive Rights, which campaigns for abortion rights and monitors abortion laws around the world.
- At the same time, “we have seen a lot of changes in recent years, [and] an overall global trend towards liberalization” of abortion laws, Harpin told Axios ahead of the Supreme Court ruling.
Here is an overview of current abortion laws around the world, according to a study by the Center for Reproductive Rights:
Abortion is totally forbidden
About 91 million women of reproductive age live in about 24 countries or territories that prohibit abortion in all circumstances.
- El Salvador has some of the strictest abortion laws in the world. At least 180 women have been prosecuted for abortion or aggravated homicide after having obstetrical emergencies, such as miscarriage or stillbirth. Under public pressure, some of these women have been released in recent years, although many remain in prison serving decades-long sentences.
- Nicaragua implemented a total ban on abortion in 2006.
- Honduras, which has banned abortion under all circumstances since 1985, toughened its abortion law last year by adding an amendment to its constitution, making it more difficult to change the ban in the future, advocates say. abortion rights.
- Malta is the only EU member state to ban abortion without exception.
- Other countries on this list include the Dominican Republic, Egypt, Haiti, Iraq, Madagascar, Nicaragua, the Philippines, Senegal, and Suriname.
Abortion is allowed to save a woman’s life
42 countries or territories allow abortion to save the life of a pregnant person.
- Chile currently belongs to this category, but as the country drafts a new constitution, there are indications it could include reproductive rights.
- Other countries on this list include Bahrain, Guatemala, Kiribati, Lebanon, Libya, Malawi, Myanmar, Nigeria, Oman, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda.
Abortion is allowed to preserve health
Nearly 50 countries or territories allow abortion for health or therapeutic reasons. Health is sometimes specified to include physical and/or mental health.
- Poland, where much of the population identifies as Catholic, is among the countries that have rolled back abortion rights in recent years. Abortion is allowed in cases of rape, incest or if there is a risk to a woman’s health or life, but “it is almost impossible for those eligible for a legal abortion to obtain one one,” according to Amnesty International.
- Other countries in this category are Algeria, Bolivia, Botswana, Burundi, Cameroon, Costa Rica, Djibouti, Ecuador, Kuwait, Morocco, Pakistan, Peru, Saudi Arabia, Togo and Zimbabwe.
Abortion is permitted for broad social or economic reasons
13 countries or the territories allow “abortion in a wide range of circumstances”. Some also provide exceptions for rape, incest, fetal impairment or other grounds.
- “These countries often consider a woman’s actual or reasonably foreseeable environment and social or economic situation when considering the potential impact of pregnancy and childbearing,” the Center for Reproductive Rights said in his research.
- Some of the countries on this list include Ethiopia, Finland, India, Rwanda, Taiwan, and Zambia.
Note: Some countries that allow abortion to save a woman’s life, to preserve her health, and for general social and economic reasons, may also provide exceptions for cases of rape, incest, fetal malformation, and /or other circumstances.
Abortion is permitted upon request (gestation limits vary)
At least 75 countries allow abortion on demand, with variable gestational limits.
- The most common gestation period is 12 weeks, but Harpin points out that many countries, especially in Europe, offer legal protections for abortion beyond this limit and/or other general exceptions.
- Colombia this year decriminalized abortion. Abortion became legal in Argentina Last year. Ireland legalized in 2018. South Korea, New Zealand and other nations have also liberalized their abortion laws in recent years.
Keep in mind: A country’s laws don’t always accurately reflect the reality on the ground, Harpin said.
- Costs, geography, health care and other factors can limit access – as they often have in the United States
The United States without Roe
- Without Roe in place, states can legally regulate or ban abortion.
- More than a dozen states have trigger laws in effect that make abortion illegal soon after the ruling, and several more are “certain or likely” to ban abortion in the near future, according to the report. ‘Guttmacher Institute, which monitors reproductive rights laws and advocates for access to abortion
- Human rights groups and world leaders warned on Friday that the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling could have far-reaching consequences for reproductive rights around the world by emboldening anti-abortion activists in other countries.
Methodology, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights:
- The categorizations reflect “a black-letter reading of the law in force in each country. Abortion laws are categorized according to the provisions of national laws, legal regulations and court decisions”.
- Mexico’s Supreme Court liberalized abortion nationally, but “each state will need to change its laws to comply with this ruling before we can change it on our map, consistent with our methodology for federal systems.”
Go further: The State of Abortion in America
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with the latest details following the June Supreme Court ruling. It was previously corrected to reflect that nearly 60 countries have liberalized their laws in the last 25 years, not nearly 50.