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Abortion Rights Around The World

Aug 8, 2018

Abortion Rights Around The World

Argentine lawmakers will vote Wednesday on the legalisation of abortion, which remains banned in some 20 countries worldwide, while others have highly restrictive laws in place.

Here is a snapshot of the global situation:

Total Ban

Predominantly Catholic Malta is the only European Union country to totally ban abortion, imposing jail terms of between 18 months and three years if the law is broken. 

Abortion is also banned in Andorra, the Vatican and San Marino, which are in Europe but not the EU. Globally there are total bans in Congo-Brazzaville, Democratic Republic of Congo, Dominican Republic, Egypt, El Salvador,  Gabon, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Honduras, Laos, Madagascar, Mauritania, Nicaragua, Philippines, Palau, Senegal and Suriname.

In El Salvador, the courts have handed down lengthy jail sentences, some of 
up to 30 years, to women judged to have resorted to abortion.

Restricted

Many countries allow abortions in cases where the mother's life is deemed to be in danger.

A partial list includes: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Guatemala, Iraq, Ivory Coast, Lebanon, Myanmar, Paraguay, South Sudan, Syria, Uganda, Venezuela, West Bank/Gaza and Yemen.

In Argentina, Congress' lower house approved on June 14 a bill sent to the Senate that would legalise abortion in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy and provide for conscientious objection for practitioners, but not for hospitals. In the August 8 vote, senators will decide on the version of the text adopted by the deputies. If a majority of the 72 senators approve the text, 
abortion will be legalised in the country. 

In Brazil the law only allows terminations in cases of rape, risk to the life of the mother or if the foetus is missing part or all of the brain.

Last September Chile lifted a strict ban, which had been in force for decades, when then president Michelle Bachelet signed into law legislation to decriminalize abortion in certain cases.

On May 22 a decades-old abortion ban went to South Korea's supreme court for review.

Pressure For Change

Women from Europe and North America benefit from the most liberal legislation, with some notable exceptions. Unlike the rest of the United Kingdom, abortion is illegal in the province of Northern Ireland except when the mother's life is in danger. 

On June 7 Britain's Supreme Court said it would have declared Northern Ireland's abortion laws incompatible with human rights legislation if not for a procedural technicality in what pro-choice campaigners hailed as a victory. In late May, more than 66 percent of voters in traditionally Catholic Ireland voted by a landslide to ditch its strict abortion laws, where abortion is only allowed if a mother's life in at risk, in a referendum. New legislation is now being drawn up.

In EU member Poland, which has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the bloc, a new bill submitted my ultra-conservatives would restrict abortion even further. The bill sparked mass demonstrations across the country.

In the United States abortion was legalised nationwide in 1973, but this has been under pressure since Donald Trump became president, with some Republicans seeking restrictions. The US state of Iowa in early May signed into law a ban on abortions once a foetal heartbeat is detected, which occurs as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. The Midwestern state now has the strictest legislation on abortion in the US.

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