Abortion Laws – International Overview

Abortion Laws

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Is Abortion Legal?

  • Abortions are legal for 59% of the world’s population. Five percent of women of reproductive age live in regions where abortion is prohibited altogether; 22% of women live in areas where abortion is only permitted to save the woman’s life. (Center for Reproductive Rights)
  • Abortion regulations usually allow abortions under certain stipulations, including staying within gestational limits or qualifying for an exception.
  • 25% of the global population lives in countries where abortion is penalized if performed outside legal parameters.
  • Due to the constantly shifting political landscape, abortion laws are subject to frequent alterations. While we aim to keep our site up to date, some information may have changed.

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When Is Abortion Legal? - Abortion Parameters

Governments that do not ban abortion set legal parameters under which it is permitted.

1. Indicators

Most legislators list indicators that allow for abortion within specific gestational limits. These may include socio-economic reasons, the mother’s health, fetal defects, conception through rape or incest, or to save the life of the mother.

2. Specialized Training

Abortion laws often specify who is permitted to perform abortions. In most countries, abortions must be performed by medical staff. In many of these countries, abortions may only be performed by medical doctors.

3. Location

Internationally, home abortions are more heavily restricted than in-clinic abortions. DIY abortions are often completely banned, and the abortion pill is strictly regulated.

4. Consent/Anonymous

Most abortions can stay anonymous. No one has to know. Legal exceptions in some regions may include parental consent for minors or spousal consent for married couples.

Some countries have specific laws on how medical records on abortions are handled. Usually, abortions are only added to a woman’s medical records, upon her request.

Some regions require informed consent from the woman. Advice given during this mandated counseling session may include information about the abortion procedure, fetal development, and abortion alternatives. A waiting period of 1 to 5 days may be required after receiving abortion counseling.


Abortion coercion is a criminal offense in most countries. This means that forcing someone to have an abortion is punishable by law.

5. Medical Requirements

A blood test or an ultrasound may be required by law before procuring an abortion. These laws are in place to protect the health of the woman. The ultrasound reveals gestational age and a possible ectopic pregnancy. Both need to be ascertained before it is safe for the woman to proceed.

Why Have Abortion Parameters?

Legal parameters for abortions are usually given with the woman's well-being in mind. The risk of a late-term abortion is weighed against the trauma of the abortion indicator. Therefore, socio-economic reasons and general health concerns are commonly accepted as abortion indicators in early pregnancy only. Conversely, saving the mother's life usually trumps all late-term abortion restrictions.

You may be considering abortion for one of the reasons listed above. Perhaps you are not done with school, are in an unstable relationship, or are in a financially difficult situation. Your lived experience is more than an indicator! You may be feeling pressure, fear, or disbelief.

You are not alone! We would love to walk alongside you as you navigate this time of uncertainty. Take advantage of our judgment-free resources to find the path that is right for you:

Can I Get Punished for an Abortion?

Decriminalized Abortion

Decriminalizing abortion means not punishing the act of abortion, regardless of its legal status. Abortion outside of the legal parameters is considered a crime in many countries, punishable by fines, removal of licensure, or imprisonment. The woman procuring the abortion and the abortion provider may incriminate themselves through the act.

Find your country below to know if there are penalties for the woman or abortion provider in cases of abortion outside of legal parameters:

South Africa:

  • No known cases

Cambodia:

  • Abortion Provider:
    • Five years in prison if doctor injures woman in illegal abortion
    • Ten years in prison if the woman dies during an illegal abortion
  • Woman: None

Thailand:

  • Abortion provider:
    • Up to 5 years in prison and
    • TBH 100,000 for the doctor, unless the abortion was for the mother’s health.
  • Woman:
    • Up to 6 months imprisonment and
    • Monetary fines up to TBH 10,000 for the woman.

Australian Capital Territory:

  • None

New South Wales:

  • None

Northern Territory:

  • None

Queensland:

  • Abortion provider:
    • Up to 14 years in prison (criminal code S224)
  • Woman:
    • Up to 7 years in prison (criminal code S225)
  • Person aiding in abortion:
    • 3 years in prison (criminal code S226)

South Australia:

  • None

Tasmania:

  • None

Victoria:

  • None

Western Australia:

  • Abortion provider:
    • Up to $50,000 (Health Act 1911, sections 334 and 335)
  • Non-medical practitioner performing abortion:
    • Up to 5 years in prison (criminal code S199)
  • Woman: none

New Zealand:

  • Non-medical practitioner performing abortions or aiding in abortions:
    • Up to 5 years in prison (Crimes Act 183 and 186)
  • Woman: none

Austria:

Germany:

Great Britain:

  • Abortion Provider:
    • Up to life prison sentence (Offences Against the Person Act, Section 58)
  • Woman:
    • Up to life prison sentence (1868 Offences Against the Person Act, Attempts to Procure Abortion, Section 58)

Italy:

Portugal:

Republic of Ireland:

  • Abortion Provider:
    • Fined or imprisonment up to 14 years (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy Act 2018-23/5)
  • Person aiding in abortion:
    • Fined or imprisonment up to 14 years (Act 2018-23/5)
  • Woman: none

The Netherlands:

  • Abortion Provider:
    • Up to 3 years in prison (Criminal Code 82a)
  • Woman:
    • Up to 3 years in prison (Criminal Code 82a)

Northern Ireland:

  • Abortion Provider or anyone aiding in the abortion:
    • Up to level 5 fine (Abortion Regulations 2020 No. 345 Part 6 Reg. 11)
  • Woman: none

Switzerland:

Canada:

  • None

Mexico:

  • None

USA:

Maximum prison times for abortion providers and anyone abetting* an abortion:

Maximum prison times for abortion providers and anyone abetting* an abortion:

  • Alabama 1 year. $1,000
  • Arizona 5 years, specific ban on self-managed abortions
  • Arkansas 10 years, procecution of self-managed abortion
  • Delaware Specific ban on self-managed abortion
  • Georgia 10 years
  • Iowa other penalties
  • Idaho 5 years, specific ban on self-managed abortions
  • Indiana Prosecution of self-managed abortion
  • Kentucky 5 years, prosecution of self-managed abortion
  • Louisiana 10 years
  • Massachusetts Prosecution of self-managed abortion
  • Michigan 15 years
  • Missouri 15 years
  • Mississippi 10 years
  • Nevada Specific ban on self-managed abortions
  • New York Specific ban on self-managed abortions
  • North Carolina 3 years, specific ban on self-managed abortions
  • North Dakota 5 years
  • Ohio 1 year
  • Oklahoma 5 years, specific ban on self-managed abortions
  • Pennsylvania Prosecution of self-managed abortion
  • South Carolina 2 years
  • South Dakota 2 years
  • Tennessee 15 years, prosecution of self-managed abortion
  • Texas life and $10,000, prosecution of self-managed abortion
  • Utah 15 years, prosecution of self-managed abortion
  • Wisconsin 15 years
  • Wyoming 14 years

Doctors would also risk losing their medical licenses.

* A person aiding in abortion by providing finances, travel assistance, or abortion instruments can be sued in these states. This often includes companies providing abortion assistance to their employees.

A woman receiving an abortion is rarely prosecuted. Only under South Carolina, Nevada, Kentucky, and Oklahoma laws can a woman illegally taking abortion pills face prison sentences and fines.

Brazil:

Where Do I Go From Here?

Your web search has provided you with some helpful information on abortion regulations. Perhaps you find yourselves at a crossroads right now. Your questions go beyond legalities. You might be wondering whether to have an abortion or not. No one can make this decision for you. As you consider which path to take, feel free use of our judgment-free resources.

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Disclaimer: Due to the constantly shifting political landscape, abortion laws are subject to frequent changes. While profemina aims to provide you with up-to-date information, we cannot guarantee the veracity of the data provided in this article.

Sources:

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