Summary of Abortion Laws Around the World


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We are presently updating this information. See the more current version.

This chart summarizes the abortion laws of almost every country in the world. The chart indicates when abortion is legal in each country.

The meanings of the columns are:

Life to save the life of the mother
Health to preserve the physical health of the mother
Mental to preserve the mental health of the mother
Rape in cases of rape and incest
Defect when the unborn child has medical problems or birth defects
Social for social and/or economic reasons, e.g. if the mother cannot afford to support a child
Demand available on demand, no reason need be given

In each column, we give one of the following values:

Y legal for this reason
N not legal for this reason
1 legal, but only in the first trimester (three months) of pregnancy (exact time frames vary)
2 legal, but only in the first two trimesters (six months) of pregnancy (exact time frames vary)
R generally legal but with significant restrictions
? information not available, or law is ambiguous

More details are below.

Country Life Health Mental Rape Defect Social Demand
Afghanistan Y N N N N N N
Albania Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Algeria Y 2 2 N N N N
Andorra Y N N N N N N
Angola 1 N N N N N N
Antigua 1 N N N N N N
Argentina Y Y ? ? N N N
Armenia 2 2 2 2 2 2 1
Australia Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Austria Y Y Y 1 Y 1 1
Azerbaijan Y Y Y Y Y Y 1
Bahamas Y Y Y ? ? N N
Bahrain Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Bangladesh Y 1 1 1 1 1 1
Barbados Y Y Y Y Y Y N
Belarus Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Belgium Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Belize Y Y Y N Y Y N
Benin Y N N N N N N
Bhutan ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
Bolivia Y Y ? Y N N N
Bosnia Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Botswana Y Y Y Y Y N N
Brazil Y N N Y N N N
Brunei Y N N N N N N
Bulgaria Y 2 1 1 Y 1 1
Burkina Faso Y Y Y 1 Y N N
Burundi Y Y ? N N N N
Cambodia Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Cameroon Y Y ? Y N N N
Canada Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Cape Verde Y Y Y 1 Y 1 1
Central African Republic Y N N N N N N
Chad Y N N N N N N
Chile N N N N N N N
China Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Colombia Y N N N N N N
Comoros Y Y ? N N N N
Congo (Brazzaville) Y N N N N N N
Congo (Zaire) Y N N N N N N
Cook Islands Y Y Y N N N N
Costa Rica Y Y ? N N N N
Cote D'Ivoire Y N N N N N N
Croatia Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Cuba Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Cyprus Y Y Y Y Y ? N
Czech Republic 2 2 1 1 2 1 1
Denmark Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Djibouti Y ? ? N N N N
Dominica Y N N N N N N
Dominican Republic Y N N N N N N
Ecuador Y Y ? R N N N
Egypt R N N N N N N
El Salvador N N N N N N N
Equitorial Guinea Y Y ? N N N N
Eritrea Y Y ? N N N N
Estonia Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Ethiopia Y Y ? N N N N
Fiji Y Y Y ? ? Y N
Finland Y Y Y Y Y Y N
France Y Y Y 1 Y 1 1
Gabon Y N N N N N N
Gambia Y Y Y N N N N
Georgia 2 2 2 2 2 2 1
Germany Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Ghana Y Y Y Y Y N N
Greece Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Grenada Y Y Y N N N N
Guatemala Y N N N N N N
Guinea Y Y Y N N N N
Guinea Bissau Y 1 1 1 1 1 1
Guyana Y 1 1 1 1 1 1
Haiti Y ? N ? ? N N
Honduras R N N N N N N
Hungary Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Iceland Y Y Y Y Y Y N
India Y Y 2 2 2 2 N
Indonesia Y N N N N N N
Iran Y N N N N N N
Iraq R N N N R N N
Ireland Y N N N N N N
Israel Y Y Y Y Y N N
Italy Y Y Y 1 Y 1 1
Jamaica R R R N N N N
Japan 2 2 2 2 2 2 N
Jordan Y Y Y N N N N
Kazakhstan 2 2 2 2 2 2 1
Kenya R R R N N N N
Kiribati Y N N N N N N
Korea (North) Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Korea (South) R R R R R R R
Kuwait R R R N R N N
Kyrgyzstan 2 2 2 2 2 2 1
Laos Y N N N N N N
Latvia Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Lebanon Y N N N N N N
Lesotho Y N N N N N N
Liberia Y Y Y Y Y N N
Libya Y N N N N N N
Liechtenstein Y Y Y N N N N
Lithuania Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Luxembourg R R R R R R N
Macedonia Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Madagascar Y N N N N N N
Malawi R N N N N N N
Malaysia 1 1 1 N N N N
Maldives R R N N N N N
Mali Y N N N N N N
Malta N N N N N N N
Marshal Islands R N N N N N N
Mauritania Y N N N N N N
Mauritius Y N N N N N N
Mexico 1 N N 1 N N N
Micronesia Y N N N N N N
Moldova Y Y Y Y Y Y 1
Monaco Y N N N N N N
Mongolia R R 1 1 1 1 1
Morocco 1 1 1 N N N N
Mozambique Y Y Y N N N Y
Myanmar Y N N N N N N
Namibia Y Y Y Y Y N N
Nauru R R R N N N N
Nepal Y Y Y Y Y N N
Netherlands Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Nicaragua Y ? N N N N N
Niger Y N N N N N N
Nigeria Y Y Y N N N N
Niue Y ? ? N N N N
Norway Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Oman Y N N N N N N
Pakistan Y Y Y N N N N
Palau Y N N N N N N
Panama Y Y N 1 Y N N
Papua New Guinea 1 1 1 N N N N
Paraguay Y N N N N N N
Peru Y Y Y N N N N
Philippines Y N N N N N N
Poland Y Y 1 1 1 N N
Portugal 1 1 1 1 1 N N
Qatar Y Y Y N R N N
Romania Y Y 1 1 1 1 1
Russia 2 2 2 2 2 2 1
Rwanda Y Y Y N N N N
Saint Kitts Y Y Y N N N N
Saint Lucia Y Y Y N N N N
Saint Vincent & the Grenadines Y Y Y Y Y Y N
Samoa Y Y Y N N N N
San Marino Y N N N N N N
Sao Tome and Principe 1 N N N N N N
Saudi Arabia R R R N N N N
Senegal Y N N N N N N
Seychelles 1 1 1 1 1 N N
Sierra Leone Y Y Y N N N N
Singapore Y Y Y 2 2 2 2
Slovakia 2 2 1 2 2 1 1
Slovenia Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Solomon Islands R N N N N N N
Somalia Y N N N N N N
South Africa 2 2 2 2 2 2 1
Spain Y Y Y 1 2 N N
Sri Lanka Y N N N N N N
Sudan Y N N N Y N N
Suriname Y N N N N N N
Swaziland Y N N N N N N
Sweden Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Switzerland Y Y Y N N N N
Syria R N N N N N N
Tajikstan 2 2 2 2 2 2 1
Tanzania Y Y Y N N N N
Thailand Y Y Y Y N N N
Togo 1 ? ? ? ? N N
Tonga Y N N N N N N
Trinidad & Tobago Y Y Y N N N N
Tunisia 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Turkey R R R 1 R 1 1
Turkmenistan 2 2 2 2 2 2 1
Tuvalu Y N N N N N N
United Arab Emirates R N N N N N N
Uganda Y Y Y N N N N
Ukraine 2 2 2 2 2 2 1
United Kingdom 2 2 2 N 2 2 N
United States Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Uruguay Y Y 1 1 N 1 N
Uzbekistan 2 2 2 2 2 2 1
Vanuatu Y Y Y N N N N
Vatican City N N N N N N N
Venezuela Y N N N N N N
Vietnam Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Yemen Y N N N N N N
Yugoslavia Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Zambia Y Y Y N Y Y N
Zimbabwe Y Y N Y Y N N
Country Life Health Mental Rape Defect Social Demand


Of course governments do not write their laws by checking off boxes on a form, so the above chart is a summary, not a complete description.

In general, the above chart reflects what the text of the country's law says. How vigrously laws are enforced varies widely. Measuring how strictly a law is enforced is extremely difficult: It would be difficult to get statistics on how often the authorities knew someone had broken the law but did not bother to prosecute; I can't imagine how we could find out how many people broke the law but were never caught. However, there are three special cases that are too important to gloss over:

  1. A number of countries have blanket prohibitions of abortion with no exceptions spelled out in the law, but in practice the legal system accepts a defense that the abortion was necessary to save the life of the mother.

  2. Many countries have laws saying that abortion is legal when it is necessary to protect a woman's "health". Pro-abortionists frequently say that this includes or should include "mental health"; pro-lifers just as routinely say that this should include only physical health. Where information is available, the chart reflects the legal system's prevailing interpretation of the law.
  3. Many countries that were once colonies of Britain still give legal recognition to decisions of British courts. British courts have ruled that, despite the letter of the law, abortion must be permitted in cases where a woman and/or her doctor claim that the pregnancy endangers the woman's physical or mental health. Therefore, not only Britain but also many of her former colonies routinely allow abortion in such cases, even though the written law provides no such exceptions.

In the chart we note that abortion is sometimes legal "with significant restrictions". Various countries have many different restrictions, but just to give a sampling of restrictions that we felt justified an "R" rating:

  1. Perhaps the most common is a requirement that the woman's husband consent to the abortion. (Such laws usually say that if the girl is not married and under age, her parents must consent instead.) Most Moslem countries have this restriction.
  2. In Ecuador, abortion is allowed in cases of rape, but only if the woman is mentally retarded or insane.
  3. In Luxembourg, she must be given information about alternatives. A few other countries have counseling requirements, but most of these are pretty vague and easy to meet. On paper, at least, Luxembourg's sounded like it might really mean something, and so was the only one that we felt justified an "R".
  4. Slovakia generally prohibits multiple abortions within a six month period.
  5. We did not consider it an additional restriction when a woman is required to get a doctor, psychologist, social worker, or other professional to certify that the abortion is necessary. We reasoned that this simply means that she must give some evidence that she has, in fact, met the requirements of the law. Indeed, in many cases it is an empty requirement: if the legal system simply takes the doctor's word for it, she can simply "shop around" until she finds someone willing to make the certification. This is certainly not always true -- in Germany, for example, such a certification requirement appears to prevent many abortions because most doctors are unwilling to participate in an abortion even to that extent.

There are many other special cases. For example:

In Uruguay, no social or economic justifications make an abortion legal, but when such a defesne is offerred, the penalty for breaking the law is waived. In practice this would appear to be equivalent to saying that it is legal.

In a few cases -- most notably Australia, Mexico, Nigeria, and to some extent the United Kingdom -- different political subdivisions within the country have different laws. In such cases we have tried to list the "typical" or "most common" law for that country.


This article is believed accurate as of early 2002. If you are reading this significantly later than that, bear in mind that laws change over time.

Most of the information for this article comes from Abortion Policies: A Global Review, © 2001 by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division. Additional information comes from Life Issues Institute and National Right to Life.


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Posted 15 Apr 2002.

Copyright 2002 by Pregnant Pause
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