United Nations Population Division of the United Nations Secretariat

World Abortion Policies 1999


Notes:

An X indicates that abortion is permitted.

A hyphen (-) indicates that abortion is not permitted.

Two dots (..) indicate that information or data are not readily available.

Grounds on which abortion is permitted: from Abortion Policies: An International Overview (United Nations publication, forthcoming);

Abortion rate: the number of abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44, unless otherwise indicated. From S. Henshaw and others, Incidence of Abortion Worldwide (International Family Planning Perspectives, 1999, vol. 25, Supplement, forthcoming).

Married women using contraception: the percentage currently using contraception (modern methods or all methods) among currently married women of reproductive age, including where possible, those in consensual unions. From Levels and Trends of Contraceptive Use as Assessed in 1994 (United Nations publication, Sales No. E.96.XIII.13) and World Population Monitoring, 1998 (United Nations publication, forthcoming).

Total fertility rate: The total fertility rate (TFR) is the average number of children that would be born alive to a woman during her lifetime if she were to pass through all her child-bearing years conforming to the age-specific fertility rates of a given year.

Maternal mortality ratio: the number of deaths of women occurring over a year while pregnant, or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy, irrespective of the cause of death, per 100,000 live births in that year. Data prepared by the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children's Fund, and are taken from Revised 1990 estimates of maternal mortality: a new approach (WHO/FRH/MSM/96.11 and UNICEF/PLN/96.1).

(1)For purposes of this table, if an abortion is authorized on request, it is presumed that an abortion can be performed during the period when it is authorized on request on any of the grounds listed, even if the law does not specifically mention such a ground.

(2)Abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44, unless otherwise indicated.

(3)Women aged 15-49, unless otherwise indicated; including consensual unions, where possible.

(4)Modern or clinic and supply methods include male and female sterilization, IUD, the pill, injectables, hormonal implants, condoms and female barrier methods.

(5)The abortion laws in these countries allow abortions to be performed to preserve the health of the woman, but do not differentiate between physical and mental health indications. In Comoros, abortions can be performed for serious medical reasons. In Vanuatu abortions can be performed for good medical reasons. Neither law defines these terms.

(6)Djibouti's Penal Code allows abortions to be performed for therapeutic reasons.

(7)Adjusted from source to exclude breastfeeding.

(8)Excluding Eritrea, Tigray, Asseb, Ogaden, parts of Gondar and Wello, and nomadic population.

(9)Ever-married women.

(10)The abortion laws in these countries either expressly allow abortions to be performed only to save the life of the woman, or are governed by general principles of criminal legislation which allow abortions to be performed for this reason on the ground of necessity. In addition, the holding of British case of R. v. Bourne or local applications of that decision apply. Under the decision, the ground of necessity was interpreted to encompasses abortions performed on physical and mental health grounds. In the case of Fiji, a local court decision applying Bourne has stated that socio-economic factors could also be taken into consideration in determining whether there was a threat to physical or mental health.

(11)The abortion laws in these countries do not expressly allow abortions to be performed to save the life of the woman, but general principles of criminal legislation allow abortions to be performed for this reason on the ground of necessity.

(12)Women aged 15-44.

(13)Abortions are also allowed in Mozambique in cases of contraceptive failure.

(14)Preliminary or provisional.

(15)Women aged 12-49.

(16)Excluding sterilization.

(17)Abortion law in Egypt does not expressly allow abortions to be performed to save the life of the woman, but general principles of criminal legislation allow abortions to be performed for this reason on the ground of necessity. In addition, necessity is generally interpreted to cover situations when health is endangered and even situations involving foetal impairment.

(18)There is no abortion statute in these countries; abortion is governed by Roman-Dutch common law. Under this law general principles of criminal law permit abortions to be performed on the ground of necessity. There is some disagreement as to whether necessity encompasses only abortions performed to save the life of the woman or also encompasses abortions performed to preserve the physical or mental health of the woman.

(19)For all women of ages specified.

(20)Women under age 50.

(21)Including never-married women who have a child.

(22)Excluding prolonged abstinence: 17 per cent in Burkina Faso; 22 per cent in Togo.

(23)Nigeria has two abortion laws: one for the northern states and one for the southern states. Both laws specifically allow abortions to be performed to save the life of the woman. In addition, in the Southern states, the holding of R. v. Bourne is applied, which allows abortions to be performed for physical and mental health reasons.

(24)The exact status of abortion law in Togo is unclear. The Penal Code contains no abortion provisions and it has been reported that abortions are allowed to be performed to save the life of the woman and to preserve her health, as well as other grounds.

(25)The exact status of abortion in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea is unclear, although reports suggest that abortions are allowed to be performed on request.

(26)Not clear from source whether sample is nationally representative.

(27)While Japan's abortion law allows abortions to be performed on the specific ground of physical health, it contains no specific mental health ground; nor does it specifically authorize abortions to be performed in the case of foetal impairment. However, since the law allows abortions to be performed for socio-economic reasons, mental health and foetal impairment grounds are presumably covered by this ground.

(28)Some women reported more than one method; figure shown assumes that modern methods were not used in combination with other modern methods.

(29)Based on surveys of ever-married women age 20-44 (Korea) and 15-49 (Turkey).

(30)Not a nationally representative sample, national prevalence level is probably lower than indicated.

(31)Excludes an estimated 500,000 private sector abortions.

(32)The exact status of abortion law under the new Islamic Government of Afghanistan is unclear. Previously, abortions were allowed only to save the life of the woman.

(33)Women aged 10-49.

(34)It is believed that the policy of Bhutan permits abortion on the ground of saving the life of the mother.

(35)Women aged 13-49.

(36)Nepal's abortion law permits abortions to be performed on the ground of "benevolence," but does not indicate which abortions are covered by this ground.

(37)Pakistan's abortion law allows abortions to be performed to save the life of the woman or to provide "necessary" treatment. The law does not indicate which abortions constitute ‘‘necessary’’ treatment.

(38)Excluding areas containing roughly 15 per cent of the population.

(39)Includes spontaneous abortions.

(40)Households of nationals of the country.

(41)Iraq's Penal Code lists no exceptions to the prohibition of the performance of abortions; however general principles of criminal legislation are interpreted in Iraq as allowing abortions to be performed to save the life of the woman and for physical and mental health reasons.

(42)Saudi Arabia's abortion law allows abortions to be performed during first forty days of pregnancy "to accomplish a legal benefit" or "to prevent an expected harm;" during the first four months of pregnancy abortions are allowed to save the life of the woman and for health reasons, with no differentiation between physical and mental health. The exact definition of the cited phrases is not indicated.

(43)Uncodified Islamic law governs abortion in Yemen.

(44)Women aged 18-34.

(45)Women in first marriage.

(46)The abortion laws in these countries require a woman seeking an abortion to state that she is in a condition of distress or a similar condition, depending on the country; the decision to have an abortion, however, is entirely the decision of the woman.

(47)Women aged 18-41.

(48)Women under age 45.

(49)All sexually active women.

(50)Women aged 20-49.

(51)Women aged 18-44.

(52)Based on the Irish residents who obtained abortions in England.

(53)Women aged 18-49.

(54)Women currently married or cohabiting who were born in 1945, 1950, 1955, 1960, 1965 or 1968.

(55)Women aged 20-44.

(56)Women aged 16-49.

(57)Data pertaining to Great Britain.

(58)Use since last pregnancy (since marriage, if no pregnancy).

(59)The abortion laws in these countries have been amended to remove all indications for the legal performance of abortions; however, it is not clear whether a defense of necessity might be allowed to justify an abortion performed to save the life of the woman.

(60)Marriage cohorts of 1974 and 1977.

(61)Including abortions obtained in the Netherlands.

(62)Flemish population aged 20-40.

(63)Women aged 20-39.

(64)Residents only

(65)Women aged 18-42.

(66)Includes estimates for 2 of the 26 cantons.

(67)Sample of husbands and wives married between 1970 and 1979.

(68)Including visiting unions.

(69)The criminal laws of these countries provide that medical and surgical treatment performed in good faith is legal even though it involves abortion.

(70)The Honduras Penal Code makes no exceptions to the general prohibition on the performance of abortions; the Code of Medical Ethics, however, allows abortions to be performed for therapeutic purposes.

(71)Abortion law in Mexico is determined at the state level. The grounds checked refer only to the abortion law of the Federal District; some other states allow abortions to be performed on grounds 2, 3, 5 and 6.

(72)Nicaragua's abortion law allows the performance of "therapeutic abortions," but does not specify which abortions are therapeutic.

(73)Abortions are also authorized for serious health reasons that endanger the life of the "product of conception."

(74)Excluding douch, abstinence and folk methods.

(75)There is controversy over whether the text of the Argentine Penal Code can be interpreted to allow abortions to be performed in the case of rape or only in the case of rape of mentally retarded or insane woman.

(76)Abortions are allowed to be performed on the ground of rape or incest in the case of a mentally retarded or insane woman.

(77)In cases of severe economic hardship, the penalty for performing an abortion illegally may be reduced or waived.

(78)Including abortions obtained in the United States.

(79)Abortion law in Australia is determined at the state level and is governed by various state laws and, in some states, court decisions. The most restrictive laws allow abortion to be performed to save the life of the woman and to preserve her physical or mental health; the most liberal law (Western Australia) allows abortion on request.

(80)The status of abortion law in these countries is unclear. In the most recent version of the criminal law statutes of the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia there are no abortion provisions. In addition, criminal law in the Federated States of Micronesia was recently placed under the exclusive jurisdiction of the four states of that country. The one state criminal code that has been compiled since this time contains no abortion provisions. It is possible that local customary law governs abortion in both of these countries.

(81)Provisions of Palau’s criminal law prohibit the performance of all abortions. However, these provisions were held to be invalid by a local court before the country gained its independence. It is possible that local customary law or American common law governs abortion in Palau.

(82)The abortion laws of the Cook Islands and Niue are based on New Zealand’s abortion law before it was liberalized in 1977-1978. Under both laws, abortions can be performed only to save the life of the woman. It is probable that New Zealand case law, which, before the liberalization of New Zealand’s abortion law, followed the Bourne decision and allowed abortion to be performed on physical and mental health grounds, is applicable in both countries.

This wall chart was prepared by the Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat. It was facilitated by the close cooperation among United Nations bodies. In particular, the contribution of the United Nations Population Fund in providing financial support for this publication is gratefully acknowledged. The assistance of experts who reviewed early drafts and provided additional information and comments is greatly appreciated.

Although for many countries current information on the status of abortion policy is easy to obtain, for some countries that is not the case. Information on some countries is incomplete; in others it is noticeably lacking. Readers are therefore invited to send information, comments or corrections they deem useful to the Director, Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations Secretariat, New York, N.Y. 10017

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