Abortion law

Abortion law

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Abortion law is legislation which pertains to the provision of abortion. Abortion has at times emerged as a controversial subject in various societies because of the moral and ethical issues that surround it, though other considerations, such as a state's pro- or antinatalist policies or questions of inheritance and patriarchy, also dictate abortion law and regulation. It has been regularly banned and otherwise limited, though abortions have continued to be commonplace in many areas where it is illegal. Almost 2/3 of the world’s women currently reside in countries where abortion may be obtained on request for a broad range of social, economic or personal reasons. Abortion laws vary widely by country, ranging from Chile, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Malta, and Vatican City, which ban the procedure entirely, to Canada, which places no restrictions on the provision of abortion whatsoever. Both supporters and opponents of legal abortion believe their position addresses a fundamental human right.


Abortion and contraception have been widely available throughout the history of Western Civilization, despite ethical concerns on the part of some. Plato and Aristotle both argued in favor of compulsory abortion under certain circumstances, though Hippocrates expressly disapproved of the practice. Under Roman law, abortion sometimes occurred but family planning was conducted mainly through the exposure of healthy newborns--usually to protect the rights and interests of the biological father. References to abortion were included in the writings of Ovid, Seneca, Juvenal and Pliny, who included a list of abortifacients (drugs that induce an abortion) in one text. Early Christian philosophers, including Ivo of Chartres and Gratian, disapproved of abortion when it broke the link between the sexual act and procreation but argued that abortion of what Ivo termed an "unformed embryo" did not constitute homicide.

Religious authorities have taken various positions on abortion throughout history (see "Religion and abortion"). In 1588, Pope Sixtus V adopted a papal bull adopting the position of St. Thomas Aquinas that contraception and abortion were crimes against nature and sins against marriage. This verdict was relaxed three years later by Pope Gregory XIV, who pronounced that abortion before "hominization" should not be subject to church penalties that were any stricter than civil penalties. Common law positions on abortion in individual countries varied significantly from country to country.

As a matter of common law in England and the United States, abortion was illegal anytime after quickeningndash when the movements of the fetus could first be felt by the woman. In the 19th century, many Western countries began to use statutes to codify or further restrictions on abortion. Anti-abortion forces were led by a combination of conservative groups opposed to abortion on moral grounds and medical professionals who were concerned about the danger presented by the procedure and the regular involvement of non-medical personnel in performing abortions.

It became clear in the following years, however, that illegal abortions continued to take place in large numbers even where abortions were expressly illegal. It was difficult to obtain sufficient evidence to prosecute the women and abortion doctors, and judges and juries were often reluctant to convict. Henry Morgentaler, for instance, was never convicted by a jury. Many were also outraged at the invasion of privacy and the medical problems resulting from abortions taking place illegally in medically dangerous circumstances. Political movements soon coalesced around the legalization of abortion and liberalization of existing laws.

By the early 20th century, many countries had begun to legalize abortions when performed to protect the life of the woman, and in some cases to protect the health of the woman. Under Vladimir Lenin, the Soviet Union legalized all abortions in 1920, but this was fully reversed in 1936 by Joseph Stalin in order to increase population growth. In the 1930s, several countries (Poland, Turkey, Denmark, Sweden, Iceland, Mexico) legalized abortion in some special cases (rape, threat to mothernal health, fetal malformation). In 1948 abortion was legalized in Japan, 1952 in Yugoslavia (on limited basis) and 1955 in the Soviet Union (on demand). Some Soviet satelite states (Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Romania) legalized abortion in the late fifties under Soviet pressure. The adoption of contraceptives the 1950s and 1960s in Western countries resulted in comparatively few statutory changes on abortion law. In Great Britain), the Abortion Act of 1967 clarified and prescribed abortions as legal up to 28 weeks. Other countries soon followed, including Canada (1969), the United States (1973 in most states, pursuant to the federal Supreme Court decision which legalized abortion nationwide), France (1975), Austria (1975),New Zealand (1977), Italy (1978), the Netherlands (1980) and Belgium (1990). However, these countries vary greatly in the circumstances under which abortion is permitted. In 1975, the West German Supreme Court struck down a law legalizing abortion, holding that they contradict the constitution's human rights guarantees. After Germany's reunification, despite the legal status of abortion in the former East Germany, a compromise was reached which deemed most abortions illegal, but prosecutions not performed.

International law

In addition to national and regional laws, there are multi-national and international treaties, conventions, and laws that may actually be enforced on or within signatory nations. However, there is an inherent difficulty in the enforcement of international law due to the issue that state sovereignty poses. As such, the effectiveness of even binding multi-national efforts to legislate the rights to life and liberty in general, or abortion in specific, is difficult to measure. Examples of such efforts that have or might have bearing for abortion law, nationally or internationally, include:

*The 1978 American Convention on Human Rights states, in Article 4.1, "Every person has the right to have his life respected. This right shall be protected by law and, in general, from the moment of conception." The Convention is considered binding only for the 24 of 35 member nations of the Organization of American States who ratified it. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights found that the words "in general" left room for individual nations to determine their own abortion legislation. [Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. (March 6, 1981). [http://www.wcl.american.edu/humright/digest/1980/res2381.cfm Resolution 23/81] . Retrieved October 27, 2006.]

* The 1994 [http://www.unfpa.org/icpd/icpd_poa.htm Programme of Action] states, in paragraph 8.25, "In no case should abortion be promoted as a method of family planning. . . Any measures or changes related to abortion within the health system can only be determined at the national or local level according to the national legislative process. In circumstances where abortion is not against the law, such abortion should be safe." The nonbinding document was adopted by at least 179 countries at the United Nations International Conference on Population and Development held in Cairo, Egypt.

* The 1995 [http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/beijing/platform/index.html Beijing Platform for Action] states, in paragraph 96, “The human rights of women include their right to have control over and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality, including sexual and reproductive health, free of coercion, discrimination and violence.” The nonbinding document has been adopted by 189 countries at the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing, China. It calls upon nations in which abortion remains illegal to reconsider laws that punish women, but does not specifically advocate the legalization of abortion.

National laws

The following series of tables present the current abortion legislation of the world's nations as divided by continent. Actual access to abortion may vary significantly on the basis of geography, income, cost, health care, social factors, and other issues. Many jurisdictions also place other restrictions on abortion access, including waiting periods, the provision of information, the assent of multiple doctors, and spousal or parental notification.

* Yes - Legal
* No - Illegal
* 1st - Legal during 1st trimester only (exact datendash e.g. number of weeksndash may vary)
* 2nd - Legal during 1st and 2nd trimester only (exact date may vary)
* Restricted - Legal but subject to significant restrictions
* Varies - Varies by region
* ? - Information is unavailable or the law is too ambiguous


The Americas


Legal restrictions on later abortion

As of 1998, among the 152 most populous countries, 54 either banned abortion entirely or permitted it only to save the life of the pregnant woman.Anika Rahman, Laura Katzive and Stanley K. Henshaw. [http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/journals/2405698.pdf A Global Review of Laws on Induced Abortion, 1985-1997] , International Family Planning Perspectives (Volume 24, Number 2, June 1998).] In contrast, another 44 of the 152 most populous countries generally banned late-term abortions after a particular gestational age: 12 weeks (Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cuba, Czech Rep., Denmark, Estonia, France, Georgia, Greece, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Rep., Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Mongolia, Norway, Russian Fed., Slovak Rep., Slovenia, South Africa, Ukraine, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Yugoslavia), 13 weeks (Italy), 14 weeks (Austria, Belgium, Cambodia, Germany, Hungary, and Romania), 18 weeks (Sweden), viability (Netherlands and to some extent the United States), and 24 weeks (Singapore and the United Kingdom [Northern Ireland excluded] ).

Case law

*R v Davidson (1969)
*Abortion trial of Emily Stowe (1879)
*Azoulay v. The Queen (1952)
*Morgentaler v. The Queen (1976)
*R. v. Morgentaler (1988)
*Borowski v. Canada (Attorney General) (1989)
*Tremblay v. Daigle (1989)
*R. v. Morgentaler (1993)
*German Federal Constitutional Court abortion decision (1975)
*Attorney General v. X (1992)
United States
*"Roe v. Wade" (1973)
*"Doe v. Bolton" (1973)
*"H. L. v. Matheson" (1981)
*"City of Akron v. Akron Center for Reproductive Health" (1983)
*"Webster v. Reproductive Health Services" (1989)
*"Hodgson v. Minnesota" (1990)
*"Planned Parenthood v. Casey" (1992)
*"Bray v. Alexandria Women's Health Clinic" (1993)
*"Stenberg v. Carhart" (2000)
*"McCorvey v. Hill" (2004)
*"Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood of New England" (2006)
*"Gonzales v. Carhart" (2007)

ee also

*Abortion by country
*Abortion debate
*History of abortion
*Mexico City Policy
*Religion and abortion
*Roe effect
*Henry Morgentaler
*Wrongful abortion



* [http://annualreview.law.harvard.edu/population/abortion/Abortion law sidebars.htm Abortion Laws of the World] . (n.d.). "Annual Review of Population Law." Retrieved July 14, 2006.
* Appel, Jacob M. 'Conscience' vs. Care: How Refusal Clauses are Reshaping the Rights Revolution, "Medicine and Health, Rhode Island", August 2005.
*Rahman, Anika, Katzive, Laura, & Henshaw, Stanley K. (1998). [http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/journals/2405698.html A Global Review of Laws on Induced Abortion, 1985-1997] . "International Family Planning Perspectives, 24 (2)". Retrieved July 14, 2006.
*United Nations Population Division. (2002). [http://www.un.org/esa/population/publications/abortion Abortion Policies: A Global Review] . Retrieved July 14, 2006.
*IPPF European Network. (2004). [http://web.archive.org/web/20060818085422/http://www.ippfen.com/files/105.pdf Abortion Legislation in Europe] . Retrieved October 27, 2006.
*Center for Reproductive Rights. (2005). [http://www.crlp.org/pdf/pub_bp_Abortion law sidebars10.pdf Abortion and the Law: Ten Years of Reform] . Retrieved November 22, 2006.
*The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. (November 2006). [http://pewforum.org/publications/reports/abortion-laws.pdf Abortion Laws Around The World] . Retrieved April 18, 2007.
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6235557.stm Europe's Abortion Laws] . (February 12, 2007). "BBC News." Retrieved February 12, 2007.
*United Nations Population Division. (2007). [http://www.un.org/esa/population/publications/2007_Abortion_Policies_Chart/2007_WallChart.pdf World Abortion Policies 2007] . Retrieved October 3, 2007.

External links

* [http://www.crlp.org/pub_fac_abortion_laws.html Center for Reproductive Rights: The World's Abortion Laws]
* [http://www.pregnantpause.org/lex/world02.htm Pregnant Pause: Summary of Abortion Laws Around the World]

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