Summary of European Abortion Laws

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Italy Legal on demand through the 12th week.

Law passed in 1978, upheld in 1981 referendum.

Ireland Illegal.

A 1993 referendum rejected legalization, but made it legal to advertise abortions available in foreign countries and allowed people to travel overseas to obtain abortions.

Poland Legal only for strict medical reasons.

Abortion was legal under the communist government. The post-communist democratic government enacted the present law in 1993. In 1996 they passed a more liberal law, allowing abortion up to 12 weeks for various reasons, including financial hardship and emotional problems, but the high court declared this law unconstitutional.

Spain Legal up to 12 weeks in cases of rape, deformed baby, or danger to the mother's life or mental health.

Law passed in 1985. In practice, the "mental health" clause has resulted in abortion on demand (up to 12 weeks)as psychiatrists will routinely certify that a woman's mental health is endangered.

United Kingdom In England, Scotland, and Wales, legal up to 24 weeks. In Northern Ireland, there is no specific law either allowing or prohibiting it, and in practice it is rare.

Law passed 1967.

Switzerland Illegal unless the mother's life is in danger.

A 1977 referendum to allow abortions up to 12 weeks was rejected. A 1988 referendum to drop the life-of-the-mother exception was also defeated.

Germany Legal, though the mother must present a certificate showing that she has consulted a counselor first. The counselor may be from a church group, the Red Cross, or the government.

The Pope has called for Catholic churches to stop participating in the counseling certification, on the grounds that this makes the church a party to the abortion. Some within the church see it as an opportunity to present mothers with alternatives.

Denmark Legal on demand through the 12th week.

Law passed 1973. Abortion rate is very high -- about 20% of all pregnancies.

Romania Legal through the 12th week.

Romania was the only country where abortion was illegal under communist rule, and this prohibition was enforced with very invasive government action. When the communist government was overthrown abortion was legalized.

Sources: Associated Press, 27 June 1998, and Ultimate Pro-Life Resource,
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Written June 1998. Posted 25 Jan 2001.

Copyright 1998 by Ohio Right to Life
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