Abortion has always been a controversial subject. While many people believe that it is a woman's right to choose whether or not she elects to have an abortion, others have religious, political, emotional, and personal morals that lead them to believe that having an abortion is wrong. It all comes down to various upbringing, ethics, religious backgrounds, political alignments, and other attributes that play into forming opinions. Because of these factors and more, abortion rates vary significantly between nations.
Around the world, some countries have taken away the woman's right to choose and have decided for all women by making abortion illegal. When the government gets involved in abortion, there is no longer the option for women to ultimately decide what happens to their bodies, should they ever become pregnant. Whether or not pregnancy is planned, thousands of women are faced with the situation of deciding between having a baby or scheduling an appointment for an abortion.
The laws regarding abortion are diverse and vary by country. There are currently twenty-six countries where all abortions are illegal, regardless of if the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest. In 37 countries, abortion is illegal unless it saves the mother's life, and in others, it is illegal unless used to save the mother's life or preserve her health.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported on the number of abortions performed in all countries, whether abortion is legal or illegal. According to the World Health Organization findings, the legality of abortion across the world has little to no effect on how many abortions occur every year. The legality of abortion, however, does affect the number of safe abortions women are having.
Abortions take place all over the world, with a few very rare exceptions. In Latin America, the trio of countries with restricted access to abortions in entirety is El Salvador, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic. The Vatican City in Europe decided that the country's citizens are not allowed to receive abortions, just like the anti-abortion countries in Latin America. In Europe, the country of Malta is similar to Vatican City in that abortions are illegal, but there's one exception to the abortion law in Malta.
According to the government of Malta, abortions can be performed if they are necessary to save the would-be mother's life. Pregnancies often do not go as planned, in that health concerns or medical emergencies can arise during pregnancy, as well as at birth. The focus of the government of Malta's exception to their country's abortion law is the instance in which a mother's health might be at risk during pregnancy.
An example of this is when a woman becomes pregnant. Still, the embryo does not grow within the mother's uterus, but rather, either in a different organ or just outside the uterus. Either way, these situations are called ectopic pregnancies, and they are fatal for women if the pregnancies are allowed to endure. Abortion is the only option in this scenario, and in Malta, abortion in this situation would be legal.
Here is a brief breakdown of some of the larger countries around the world and their respective perspectives on terminating pregnancies, laws regarding abortions to date, or bans placed on abortion throughout the years.
This Latin American country has not completely restricted abortions, but they are not available for any woman or just any reason. The option to choose what is best for her body is not a right provided to women in Brazil. Instead, abortions are only legal for women who have been raped by an assailant they do not know, as well as rape or sexual activity with a family member. Additionally, if the pregnant woman's life is at stake due to the pregnancy, she will be able to pursue the procedure.
Abortions are no longer illegal in Canada, though they were banned until the year 1988. The government of this North American country has since then reversed the laws that once made abortions illegal. Deemed as unconstitutional with respect to the foundation upon which Canada was established, Canada is also known for having free healthcare for Canadian citizens.
Abortions fall under the services that the national healthcare covers, but this is only applicable if the abortions are performed in hospitals. If you were to go to a clinic, like Planned Parenthood, then Canadian citizens might run into a situation where they would have to individually pay for their abortions.
As the largest country in the world, Russia is the country that leads in the number of abortions performed on an annual basis. Russia has the highest number of abortions performed per year, and there are no laws against abortions in Russia when the pregnancy is less than twelve weeks in length up until 2003. After that point, the Russian government extended the period during which abortions are legal, up until twenty-two weeks of pregnancy.
Reasons that constitute abortions in Russia include rape, health risks to the pregnant woman, imprisonment of the woman, the risk of death for the mom or the baby, and physical or mental disabilities to the fetus that put the unborn baby in a dangerous position.
The table below has each country's abortion law. Note that this is a general list of laws, and every country has more specific rules and exceptions.
- Prohibited altogether: Abortion is banned
- To save a woman's life: Abortion is allowed when it saves the mother's life
- To preserve physical health: Abortion is allowed when it saves the mother's life and/or preserves her physical health
- To preserve physical/mental health: Abortion is allowed when it saves the mother's life and/or preserves her physical or mental health
- To preserve health/on socioeconomic grounds: Abortion is allowed when it saves the mother's life, preserves her physical or mental health, and for socio-economic reasons
- No restriction: Abortion is restricted to a specified reason to get one, but gestational and other requirements apply.