This Map Shows The State Of Abortion Laws Worldwide

Image: Courtesy of Center for Reproductive Rights.
A cruel “extended funeral” was how one Peruvian teen who was forced to carry a brain-damaged fetus to term described her pregnancy. The 17-year-old breast-fed her baby, who was born without parts of her brain and skull, for four days until the baby died. The teen had wanted to terminate the pregnancy, but her request was denied.

In Paraguay, one girl became a mother at age 11 after being raped by her stepfather repeatedly. She was refused an abortion because the procedure is illegal in Paraguay except for cases in which the life of the mother or the child is in danger.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump made headlines — and sparked significant backlash — recently when he said that women who have abortions should endure “some form of punishment" if the procedure is banned in the United States, a statement he later retracted. While attempts at more restrictive laws surrounding abortion and access to other reproductive health services in states such as Alabama and Indiana can have serious consequences, women around the world face even more barriers to abortion and other forms of reproductive health care.

Some 40% of the world’s population lives in areas with “restrictive” measures, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights, a non-profit legal advocacy group that supports abortion access. In at least six countries, abortion is illegal under all circumstances. The center has launched an interactive map to show the range of policies worldwide.

Here's a look at how the laws stack up across the globe.
Photo: Czarek Sokolowski/Getty Images.
A woman protests a proposal to severely restrict abortion access in Poland.

Severely Restrictive Abortion Laws
Across Latin America and Africa, women face numerous barriers when trying to freely control their reproductive rights. Most of the population in Latin America support laws that keep abortion illegal. Paraguay tops the chart with 95% opposed to the procedure. Uruguay is an exception; there, more than half the population has voiced support for a women’s right to choose.

There are still outlier countries known for their “extremely harsh and draconian abortion laws,” Katherine Mayall, global advocacy adviser at CRR, told Refinery29.

El Salvador, which has an absolute abortion ban, is a “serious offender when it comes to women’s reproductive rights,” she said. Women who miscarry and go to hospitals seeking urgent medical care have been met not with medical help, but with accusations and even prison sentences.

In addition to El Salvador, five other countries — Chile, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Malta, and Vatican City — do not allow women to end their pregnancies under any circumstances, according to Pew Research Center.

The Zika virus in Brazil and other Latin American countries has brought with it a focus on those countries' abortion laws. The largest state in South America usually only allows a woman to end a pregnancy if her life is at risk or if she is raped. The same exceptions are allowed in the African country of Cameroon, where abortion is considered a crime in most cases. Some 66 countries worldwide have a total ban on abortion or permit it only if the mother may die, according to CRR.

Some 66 countries worldwide have a total ban on abortion or permit it only if the mother may die.

Center For Reproductive Rights
Ireland has the distinction of being the only country that has a constitutional ban on the procedure — abortion is allowed only if the mother is at risk of dying.

The country's Eighth Amendment puts a fetus’ right to life on par with the rights of the woman. The law criminalizes abortion even in cases of rape, incest, and fetal impairment, “perpetuating the suffering of survivors of sexual violence and of women and their partners already grappling with a devastating loss,” Amnesty International wrote in its "She is Not a Criminal" report, which looked at the impact of Ireland’s laws. Every single day, as many as a dozen girls travel from Ireland to the United Kingdom to receive an abortion, Amnesty International reported, citing U.K. Department of Health Statistics.

In some countries, abortion is legal but not solely a woman's choice: A relative must give authorization in order for a woman to access an abortion. For example, in India and the United Arab Emirates, parental authorization/notification is required. In Saudi Arabia, parental and/or spousal permission is needed.

Even where it is not written into law, health care professionals will sometimes require spousal authorization based on customary — not legal — practices, according to CRR.

The interpretation of the law can also be key. While in Kenya, the constitution affirms that “every person has the right to the highest attainable standard of health, which includes the right to health care services, including reproductive health care,” the government, through the Ministry of Health, has told health care practitioners that they could lose their licenses or face other penalties for participating in safe abortion care training.
Photo: Matt Baron/BEI/Shutterstock.
Presidential hopeful Donald Trump recently came under fire for comments suggesting women should be punished for abortions. He later retracted that remark. But for many women around the world, this "punishment" is a reality.
Less-Restrictive Conditions
Countries with fewer restrictions allow for abortions for other health-related or situational reasons — such as rape, incest, or fetal abnormality. Some nations consider socioeconomic conditions or, in the most liberal examples, allow for abortions without restrictions. In Russia, “every woman has the right to decide independently the question of motherhood,” according to federal law. Abortions are available until 12 weeks of pregnancy. Either a medical or situational reason is required in order to terminate up until 22 weeks.

Great Britain allows abortion on socioeconomic grounds. However, liberal interpretation of the law has generally allowed “women to freely access abortion without jumping through hoops around whether or not it qualifies under the law,” Mayall said. Roughly three-quarters of European countries — including France, Germany, and Greece — allow a woman to have the operation for any reason, according to Amnesty International. Poland is one stark exception in Europe; the country is currently considering a total ban on the procedure.

That proposal, backed by the Catholic Church, has sparked widespread protests.

“Where there have been proposals to restrict abortion laws, the women’s rights movement globally has largely been able to halt those, which is really a resounding affirmation of all of the work that has gone into advancing reproductive rights. But there are still these draconian measures that are put forth, and Poland is a good example of that,” Mayall stated.

In the Middle East and North Africa, only Bahrain and Tunisia allow abortion on any grounds. According to Pew Research, many of these nations do not permit the termination of a pregnancy after a certain gestational period, such as 20 weeks.

And in late 2014, after a sustained decade-long effort, Mozambique liberalized its laws to permit abortion without restrictions or reasons during the first trimester.

While there's work to be done to ensure that women have access to reproductive health services worldwide, Mayall sees some of the recent movement on legalization encouraging.

“I think there is an increasing recognition that women’s right to make decisions about their reproductive autonomy is central to their well-being and has serious implications for their ability to pursue education, economic opportunity, to raise their families, and to make decisions about their personal lives," Mayall told Refinery29.

And an absence of legal services, as CRR notes, doesn't necessarily mean women aren't obtaining abortions. Instead, it often means women are forced to seek out illegal and unsafe alternatives. In just one year, more than 21 million women around the world underwent unsafe abortion procedures, according to the World Health Organization.

“It is not liberal abortion laws that prompt women to have abortions," CRR states. "Rather, it is the reality of living with an unwanted pregnancy."

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