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Where is Abortion Legal in the World?

Abortion around the World

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Abortion is a terminal of pregnancy before the expiration of the gestation period. Abortion and abortion rights were among the most contentious topics of this century. There is a plethora of legislation around the world on abortion, some have legalized abortion while others are decriminalizing it and then there are a few countries that strictly prohibit it. It revolves around the reproductive rights of a woman’s life.

Abortion has multiple complications for a woman’s health. It involves numerous health risks and emotional and psychological impacts. And there is an increase in the need for abortion cares in the process.

Health Risks include heavy bleeding, grave infections, Damaged Cervix, scarring uterine line, uterine hemorrhage, Embolism, endometriosis, and even death.

Emotional and Psychological impacts associated with abortions involve relationship problems, depression, mental disorders, suicidal tendencies, eating disorders, low sexual libido, alcohol, and narcotic substance abuse.

According to a report by #Wecount after the overturning of the historical Roe vs Wade by the U.S.A., calculated 6% decrease in abortion rates.

The United Nations’ stand on Abortion

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The United Nation on abortion laws encompasses the right to reproduce, which is incorporated as a human right. International Human rights advocacy has been a trailblazer when it comes to adding another dimension to abortion law reforms. The United Nations have various forums that protect the human rights of woman. It became a very integral right protected by these platforms.

These include the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), etc. Currently, the number of countries has improved, and 66 countries have legalized abortion.

While there are countries that are anti-abortion including El Salvador, the Republic of Congo, DR Congo, Dominica, Nicaragua, Mauritania, Micronesia, Malta, Angola, Tonga, Suriname, Senegal, Gabon, Haiti, etc.

Where is abortion in the world legalized (A Judicial Historical Posture)

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United Kingdom – Britain in 1938 held through a precedent that abortions were granted for rapes. In 1967 The Abortion Act was enacted and applicable to all united kingdoms except in Northern Ireland. In 1990 later the gestation period for termination of pregnancy was decreased from 28 weeks to 24 weeks.

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Ireland –Ireland has an exciting history when it comes to legalizing abortions in 1974, in the case of McGee vs The Attorney General, focusing on Article 14 of the Iris constitution, the majority of 4:1 sanctioned aborting of pregnancies and the pragmatic behind was that married people have their right safeguarded by the constitution to make their private decisions.

In 1979 the Health (Family Planning) Act enabled the sale of contraceptives by prescription and in 1993 removed the restriction of having a prescription for contraceptives.

In 1983 Constitution of Ireland recognises the right to life of an unborn child as equivalent to the life of the mother, which was repealed in 2018. In 1992 in the case of Attorney general vs X, a landmark upheld the right to abort the pregnancy.

As a repercussion of this case in 2014, Ireland’s government enacted The protection of Life during Pregnancy Act 2013, providing circumference to abortion and it also providing that suicidal tendency of women will also be a guiding factor in seeking permission.

In 2019, confirmed the enactment of the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act 2018, authorized and legalized the discontinuation of pregnancy up to 12 weeks

Sweden – By 1938 Sweden also legalized Abortion laws.

France – In 1939, The Penal Code of France granted legal abortions to protect the life of pregnant women. Later 1967 saw the enactment of The Neuwirth Law, which legally removed the ban on contraceptives.

Japan – In 1967, enacted under Eugenic Protection Act, the act helps extend the circumstances to provide the authority to abort the pregnancy.

United States Of America- After continuous historical years of struggle and enactment of a multitudinous plethora of documents emerging from pioneers like the Magna Carta(1215) to the U.S. Constitution, (1787) in protecting fundamental rights and civil liberties.

In 1791, one of the most influential bills was passed, giving rights public and termed as Bill of Rights. Now in 1890, Harvard law school published a thesis on the right to privacy as the right to be left alone by the future Highest Court Justice Louis Brandeis and his colleague.

It was at times when the yellow press was dominating, simultaneously there was an advent in technology that put in the idea of the evolution of the right to privacy on tracks. They referred to the social changes in society and argued for adding another chapter to the then-presiding legal system to protect the privacy of individuals.

In 1958, The U.S. drafted an American law institute Penal code to properly procedure abortions in the country. Later accepted in States like Georgia in 1969, and Maryland in 1970.

Griswold vs. Connecticut (1965)- The milestone in legal history in the emergence and articulation of the right to privacy and the body was preceded by the famous case of Griswold vs. Connecticut in 1965.

In New Haven on November 1962, Estelle Griswold helped initiate a planned parenthood and birth control clinic. In the nineties, it was illegal the usage of contraceptives even for couples. And Mrs. Griswold was fined heavily.

On appeal in 1965, The Supreme Court heard the case and finally struck down the statute that fined Mrs. Griswold, and inter alias stated that the Bill of Rights directly recognizes the right to privacy and that of the body.

In Eisenstadt vs. Baird (1972), these laws to access contraceptives just like any married couple were extended to the rights of unmarried girls to receive birth contraceptives.

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Roe vs Wade (1973)-In an extremely renowned and intricate case of the 20th century, Roe vs Wade 1973, It all commenced when Jane Roe filed a case against Henry Wade and put into question a Texas Statute criminalizing abortion.

She was twenty-one years old and separated from her husband. And in her third pregnancy. Distressed from the criminalization of abortion, filed a legal suit in Supreme Court.

Legal issues involved in the case were whether the women have a right to control over her own body and the right to the unborn child. In a contentious yet remarkable judgment of 7:2, declared the right to her own body choices during the first trimester, In the second trimester the state will ensure the health of the woman and in the third semester the fetus falls under the category “capable of life outside the woman’s womb” and there will penal repercussions to it.

Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992)- The third scenario described by the court that state regulation of abortion to the third trimester of pregnancy was overruled in the landmark of Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992).

The Court inferred that a woman has a right to abortion until fetal viability, and again reiterated the right to abortion under the fourteenth amendment to the Constitution. In Whole Woman’s Health vs. Hellersstedt 2016, held Texas will not be in control of the delivery of abortions, with the reasoning that it puts undue influence on women.

Dobbs vs. Jackson

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In 2022, the famous controversial case of Dobbs vs Jackson, among other rulings,over-ruling the ruling in Roe vs. Wade and Planned Parenthood vs Casey. Finally, the latest ruling American apex court reiterated that the Bill of Rights does not hold abortion rights in it.

Kansas – the apex court upheld abortions as part of the Bill of rights, in spite of reversing of Roe vs. Wade judgment.

Uruguay – Due to the catholic church’s influence on Latin America, most believe in the idea that human life commences with conception. Abortion is legal in Cuba in 1965, Uruguay in 2012, Argentina in 2022, and Columbia and Mexico in 2022.

Uruguay decriminalized abortion in 2012, The parliament enforced the laws as all pregnancies can be ended up to 12 weeks without any circumstances required. In case of rape abortions, the term for the termination will increase to 14 weeks.

But in order to follow the procedure, it is obligatory for a pregnant woman to have a discussion with three panelists, inclusive of a medical expert, psychiatrist, and social worker. and after which she is given five days to evaluate all possibilities.

Norway – In 1964, legitimized Abortions, and by 1978 it grants free access to abortion throughout the country.

Australia – R vs Davidson (1969) – This case was the pioneer that lead to the groundwork to legalize Abortion in the country. In 2008 Victoria (Australia) decriminalized it and escalated the gestation limit to the first 14 weeks.

Singapore- Singapore enacted The Abortion Act of 1969, as an attempt to legalize Abortions. later this act was replaced by The Termination of Pregnancy Act 1974 and amended the weeks on a request to terminate the pregnancy up to 24 weeks.

India – India follows an adversarial criminal system and section 312 of the Indian penal code, 1872 was enacted to criminalize abortions. Finally in 1971 Medical termination of pregnancy act 1971 was formed to legalize abortions all around the country.

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The legislature involves four circumstances to abort the continuing pregnancy, the limit is set at 24 weeks (as per the 2021 legislature reform from increasing the limit from 20 to 24 weeks) under section 3 of the act, inter alias, if pregnancy is due to failure of contraceptive devices or caused to due sexual assault or rape by any other person in case of a married woman.

If the period of gestation is more than as prescribed by the act the rationale behind it should be due to the involvement of risk to a woman’s physical and mental health, And there is a substantial risk to the unborn child, In such cases, the decision to end the pregnancy lies to the medical practitioners and not the pregnant woman.

Article 21 of the constitution had been the ruling factor that drives the fundamentals of life with dignity and privacy. In 2022, the Supreme court upheld the reproduction rights of women and the words married woman to any woman and her husband were substituted with her partner, thus broadening the perspective to unmarried women.

Rights to reproduction as inseparable from the right to privacy and are considered sacrosanct rights to bodily integrity. The ruling was held in the case of X vs The Principle Secretary, NCT of Delhi(2022).

Denmark – Denmark legalize abortion in 1973 and the access to terminate the pregnancy was up to 12 weeks

South Korea – Under the act of 1973 consent to abortions, if a pregnant woman is suffering from communication disease or is raped, the pregnancy is caused by incest or involves health risks. And it decriminalized abortions in 2021.

New Zealand – allows abortions up to the first trimester in 1977

Italy – authorized legal abortions in 1978 and the period of abortion access was the first trimester between 10 to 12 weeks of pregnancy.

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China – In 1979, The People’s Republic Of China enacted the “One Child Policy” to deal with future population crises. This encouraged legalization of abortion in the country.

Netherlands – in 1980 granting a license to legalize the termination of pregnancy in the country up to a certain limit period.

South Africa – In 1997 The Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act, of 1996 legalize abortions

Portugal – in 1998 legalized abortions up to 10 weeks of pregnancy.

Spain – in 2009 decriminalized abortion and permits it up to the 14 gestation week of pregnancy

(The jurisprudential analysis of the legalization of abortion laws mentioned in the list of a few countries is correct and best to my knowledge. Any variations in the timeline concerned and acts enacted thereby can be used to amend the hypothesis.)

Assimilation of Medical Jurisprudence

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Medical Jurisprudence is that branch of law that deals with the comprehension of medical knowledge and law. To evaluate the orientation of abortion an analysis of medical jurisprudence, political structure, economic grounds, and sociocultural factors have to be taken into consideration..

Natural school of law

This school believes in the correspondence between law and morality. The intrusion of principles of justice and non-maleficence applies to an unborn child in the womb. This school states that it is natural to view a viable fetus as a person and any means used otherwise shall be perceived as the intentional killing of human life. Naturalists believe to use a Moral Lens and welcoming abortion restrictions when it comes to abortions. Jurist like Finnis is anti-abortionists while Dworkin believes that the judiciary should handle the responsibility when it comes to taking a stand on abortions.

Sociological school of law

Sociologist takes a pragmatic approach to abortions. They believe in the implications on society for social change by enforcement of the law. Jurists like Roscoe Pound insinuate that when society’s mechanism is in conflict with the interest of society, the law should be used as a tool to diminish the gap between both. His theory of Jural postulates was emphasized here.

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Globally most researched parameters when abortion should be allowed includes these factors as mentioned below:-

  1. Medical causes when pregnancy is life-threatening
  2. Humanitarian grounds include sexual abuse and rape victims
  3. Eugenic reasons like when there are critical and fetal anomalies in pregnancy
  4. When the risk involves physical and mental health standards
  5. Socio-economic factors are involved
  6. On request when there is a failure in contraceptive devices

Gestational limits

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It means the appropriate time frame by which the pregnancy can be safely terminated. The only contrast that is critical in legalizing abortions is by observing its gestation limits, the help in determining the factors and scope of understanding the concept of when life inside the womb begins.

For a better evaluation of the concept of Abortion access, the first thing that broadens and narrows down the scope of the abortion laws is the lawmaker’s role of reproductive rights in a woman’s life. For instance, in Demark, the right to request an abortion will be during the first 12 weeks while in Vietnam no limit is prescribed to request an abortion.

Whether Abortion should be legitimization or decriminalization

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A very interesting fact is choosing between legalizing abortions and decriminalizing them. If lawmakers decide to legalize it, it will imply that they still have a final say when it comes to deciding on pregnancy and state authoritarianism will achieve ascendancy over Individualism. Abortion laws are not only a fomenter but also an antagonist towards the right to choose over one’s body and privacy.

On the contrary, if countries decriminalize abortions, it will impact the broad social change in the country by ceasing the stigma, diminishing the legal complications, and imposition of penalties. Studies have shown, for example in Canada, removing the penal conditions on the use of marijuana, as the ramification, the drug-related crimes reported got reduced in the country, or for instance, Rape laws in India have stringent punishment, as an outcome, the brutalization and killing of victims had escalated due to the fear of punishments.

Any subject that is penalized sometimes seems to have an adverse impact on the situation of the country, while criminalizing abortions, or legitimizing it by restricting free access only to a certain category and providing penal repercussions, is in itself a gross violation of human rights. There will be an increase in the number of illegal abortions and thus a rise in health rates due to abortion.

The juxtaposition of the right to choose (pro-choice) and the right to be born (pro-life)

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There is a discord between Radical feminists and Religious fundamentalists. There is a complex entanglement, as the right to choose is a fundamental human right and so is the right to live. There is a plethora of panoramic perspectives when it comes to abortion.

The divisive morality enhances convolution against abortion laws. There are countries that stringently believe in the right to be born. They adulate the belief in the right to life of the unborn. Religious group conservatism leads to the glorification of the fetus over the woman’s health.

While the right to choose will imply that you have liberties and sacrosanct rights over your life and body. The activists for woman’s life affirms the notion of freedom of choice. While choosing to abort a premature pregnancy can in itself be intricate to both the mental and physical well-being of a woman, illegal abortions can heighten the risk involved with such complications. While at the same time the argument arises that lawmakers should not have the right to make laws related to reproduction, especially on woman’s right to reproduce.

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The Abortion postulation stands in a grey area The juxtaposition of the Rights and the Parties should be the nucleus of the discussion in legalizing the abortions and rights of the parties entangled with it. The dialectic theory has been approached in discussions about abortions. There are countries in the world that had legalized abortions while others have not.

Also check out, How Long is Maternity Leave in California.

Last Updated on January 10, 2023 by Laveleena Sharma