The World’s Abortion Laws
Currently, 61 per cent of the world’s people live in countries where induced abortion is permitted either for a wide range of reasons or without restriction as to reason. In contrast, 26 per cent of all people reside in countries where abortion is generally prohibited.
A note on terminology:
“Countries” listed on the table include independent states and, where populations exceed one million, semi-autonomous regions, territories and jurisdictions of special status. The table therefore includes Hong Kong, Northern Ireland, Puerto Rico, Taiwan, and the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Gestational Limits Key: All Countries in Category V have gestational limits of 12 weeks unless otherwise indicated. Gestational limits are calculated from the first day of the last menstrual period, which is considered to occur two weeks prior to conception. Where laws specify that gestitional age limits are calculated from the date of conception, these limits have been extended by two weeks.
|”||Gestational limit of 90 days|
|†||Gestational limit of 8 weeks|
|‡||Gestational limit of 10 weeks|
|*||Gestational limit of 14 weeks|
|**||Gestational limit of 18 weeks|
|***||Gestational limit of 24 weeks|
|v||Law does not limit pre-viability abortion|
|º||Law does not indicate gestational limit; regulatory mechanisms vary|
|R||Abortion permitted in cases of rape|
|I||Abortion permitted in cases of incest|
|F||Abortion permitted in cases of fetal impairment|
|S||Sex selective abortion prohibited|
|SA||Spousal authorisation required|
|PA||Parental authorisation/notification required|
|R1||Abortion permitted in the case of rape of a woman with a mental disability Federal system in which abortion law is determined at state level; classification reflects legal status of abortion for largest number of people|
|+||Abortion permitted on additional enumerated grounds relating to such factors as the woman’s age or capacity to care for a child|
|x||Recent legislation eliminated all exceptions to prohibition on abortion; availability of defense of necessity highly unlikely|
Permitted to Save the Woman’sLife or prohibited altogether
The most restrictive laws are those that either permit abortion only to save a woman’s life or ban the procedure entirely. Many countries in this category explicitly permit abortion when a pregnancy threatens a woman’s life. In other countries, laws that make no explicit exception are generally interpreted to permit abortion under life-threatening circumstances on the grounds of “necessity.” Such an exception may also be recognised in national norms of medical ethics.
Countries which severely restrict abortion services. Those in bold allow abortion but in very limited circumstances which involve the mother’s health.
|Antigua & Barbuda||Honduras||Mexico–R/F||Sri Lanka|
|Central African Rep.||Kenya||Niger||Tonga|
|Côte d’Ivoire||Lebanon||Palau–U||United Arab Emirates–SA/PA|
|Dem. Rep. of Congo||Lesotho||Panama–PA/R/F||Venezuela|
|Dominica||Libya–PA||Papua New Guinea||West Bank & Gaza Strip|
|El Salvador–x||Mali–R/I||San Marino||69 Countries, 26% of|
|Gabon||Malta||Sao Tome & Principe||World’s Population|
Physical Health Grounds
Laws that authorise abortion to protect the pregnant woman’s life and physical health form Category II. These laws sometimes require that the threatened injury to health be either serious or permanent. While laws in this category do not explicitly permit abortion to protect mental health, many are phrased broadly enough— referring simply to “health” or “therapeutic” indications—to be interpreted to allow abortion on mental health grounds.
Countries which explicitly allow abortion for health reasons
|Bahamas||Ecuador– R1||Maldives–SA||Saudi Arabia–SA/PA|
|Burkina Faso–R/I/F||Eritrea - R/I||Pakistan||Vanuatu|
|Comoros||Jordan||Rep. of Korea||9.4% of World’s|
Mental Health Grounds
Laws in Category III expressly permit abortion to protect the woman’s mental health, as well as her life and physical health. The interpretation of “mental health” varies around the world. It can encompass, for example, psychological distress suffered by a woman who is raped or severe strain caused by social or economic circumstances.
Countries which allow abortion services for other health reasons, particularly those emanating from psychological distress due to rape and incest
|Algeria||Jamaica–PA||Saint Kitts & Nevis||Thailand–R/F|
|Botswana–R/I/F||Liberia–R/I/F||Saint Lucia–R/I||Trinidad & Tobago|
|Ghana–R/I/F||Nauru||Sierra Leone||23 Countries,|
|Hong Kong–R/I/F||New Zealand–I/F||Spain–R/F||4.2% of World’s|
A number of countries explicitly recognise three other grounds for abortion: when pregnancy results from rape; when pregnancy results from incest; and when there is a high probability of fetal impairment. Countries that recognise these grounds may fall within any of the categories described above. In addition, countries in any category may restrict access to abortion by requiring a woman to obtain parental or spousal authorisation.
Laws in Category IV, which allow abortion on socio-economic grounds, explicitly permit consideration of such factors as a woman’s economic resources, her age, her marital status, and the number of her children. Such laws are generally interpreted liberally.
Countries which allow abortion based on a woman’s socio-economic capacity in having
|Cyprus–R/F||Iceland–R/I/F/+||Saint Vincent &|
|14 Countries, 21.3% of World’s Population|
Without Restrictions as to Reasons
Finally, the least restrictive abortion laws are those that allow abortion without restriction as to reason. Most countries with such laws, however, impose a limit on the period during which women can readily access the procedure.
Countries where abortion services are available on demand
|Albania||Fmr. Yugoslav Rep.||Romania*|
|Cuba–PA||Montenegro–PA||United Statesv– PA|
|Dem. People’s Rep. of Korea°||Netherlandsv||Vietnam°|
|Estonia||Portugal‡–PA||56 Countries, 39.3% of|
|France*||Puerto Ricov||World’s Population|