Around the world in 7 insane abortion laws

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Abortion is a hot topic here in the states and crossing border lines does not make it any less divisive. Abortion laws and rights differ globally with some countries mandating that abortion is illegal in all situations and in others, women's rights are guaranteed when it comes to abortion. Here are 7 countries with the strictest stances and laws on abortion: El Salvador 

 According to a 2015 Amnesty International report, women are not allowed to receive an abortion for any situation, including the mother’s life in danger, rape and incest. People who in any way aid a woman in getting an abortion also face criminal charges.

What really sets El Salvador apart from other countries is its punishment against women who have miscarriages or still-births and are thus accused of inducing an abortion. Oftentimes, these women did not even know they were pregnant. In such cases, women who have a miscarriage or an abortion can face up to 40 years in prison under El Salvadoran law, which treats abortion as murder.

Brazil

Current law in Brazil mandates that abortion is illegal with few exceptions: rape, anenecephaly and if the pregnancy puts the mother’s life at risk. Outside of these exceptions, a woman can face up to three years in prison for having an abortion.

Brazil also stands out for its abortion laws in the wake of the Zika virus in the region. Pregnant women are especially vulnerable to the virus in which there is a greater chance of unborn babies developing microcephaly. As stated in a Think Progress article, “doctors have seen 4,000 cases of babies born with microcephaly in the past four months.”

Lawmakers in Brazil, however, are pushing for stricter abortion laws in the country. Proposed legislation calls for harsher sentencing for both women who receive abortions and doctors who perform abortions. According to the Think Progress article, if the new legislation passes, a woman could face up to four and a half years in prison and doctors could spend up to 15 years in prison.

 Chile 

Former dictator Augusto Pinochet had implemented legislation in 1989 that made abortion illegal in all situations. In March, the lower house of Congress in the country accepted legislation that would make abortion legal under certain circumstances: rape, mother’s life is at risk or if the fetus is not autonomous. However, the Senate in Chile needs to approve this proposed legislation before it can become law throughout the country. In an Amnesty International report, Chile’s Ministry of Health reported that “more than 33,000 women are admitted to hospital every year for abortion-related causes,” and most of the cases are a result of dangerous back alley abortions.

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland, though a part of the United Kingdom, has its own abortion laws. Current legislation mandates that a woman can only receive an abortion if her life is at risk. Other countries in the UK have implemented the Abortion Act of 1967 in which abortion is legal as long as it is not performed after 24 weeks. Even in those countries abortion can only be performed under certain circumstances, most notably the mother’s life and health, in cases of rape or incest and serious fetal defects.

As a result of the more lenient laws in the rest of the UK regarding abortion, about 60,000 women from Northern Ireland have sought abortions in England since 1970, according to The Guardian. The punishment for both receiving an abortion and performing the medical procedure is life imprisonment. Just last year the High Court in Northern Ireland ruled that the current law violated women’s human rights. The law still stands however until legislators amend the law.

 Poland

Poland has also made headlines recently this year as the prime minister has pushed for new legislation that would place a total ban on abortion. Currently, there are strict regulations on abortion in the country. According to a Guardian article, a woman in Poland can receive an abortion in the first 25 weeks of the pregnancy only if her life is at risk, if the pregnancy was a result of rape or incest or serious fetal defects.

 Philippines

The Philippines, which is predominantly Catholic, has a total ban on abortions making the matter a criminal offence. According to a report by the Center for Reproductive Rights, women who receive an abortion can face imprisonment ranging from two to six years. Doctors who perform abortions can face up to six years in prison. The Philippines’ 1987 Constitution explicitly stated the government’s duty to protect a fetus throughout all stages of pregnancy and even from conception.

Despite the harsh laws surrounding abortion, The Guardian has reported that “one in six women who obtain illegal procedures in the Philippines suffer complications.” To give an idea of what this number looks like, at least 1,000 women died from unsafe abortions and 90,000 women experienced complications in 2008, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights.

Haiti

In 2013, the Miami Herald published an in-depth article looking at the health crisis rampant in Haiti as a result of its ban on abortions. Similar to other countries mentioned above, the Catholic Church has a strong influence in the country and has pushed for anti-abortion legislation.

According to the Miami Herald article, a woman who induces an abortion herself can face anywhere from three to nine years in prison. The punishment for a doctor who performs an abortion is five to 15 years of hard labor. The article cited the health ministry in Haiti that reported “unsafe abortions account for 20 percent to 30 percent of maternal mortality.”


Meghan is a pug enthusiast interested in social justice, environmental issues, Latin America and women’s rights (both here in the U.S. and around the world). When she’s not worrying about postgraduate plans, Meghan binge-watchesBuffy the Vampire Slayer and Jane the Virgin. She’s still uncertain about the career path she will pursue after graduating, but would like to work in international development and public policy one day. Until then, she’ll keep watching videos of Doug the Pug while sipping whatever bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon is on sale.