What is the state of abortion in the world?

On Women’s Day, Friday 8 March, President Emmanuel Macron took part in the ceremony to seal the text enshrining abortion in the French Constitution. A world first that will go down in the country’s history. An opportunity to take stock of the international situation regarding voluntary termination of pregnancy.


The first week of March could not be more symbolic for France. On Monday 4 March, the French Parliament, meeting in Congress, approved the bill to enshrine abortion in the Constitution. This social advance, begun in 1975 with the Veil law decriminalising abortion, is intended to be a strong marker in favour of women’s right to freely dispose of their bodies. And today, President Emmanuel Macron and Justice Minister Éric Dupond-Moretti are responsible for affixing a wax seal to the text constitutionalising abortion at a sealing ceremony.


© Gayatri Malhotra / Unsplash


France thus officially becomes the first country to promote the right of women to control their own bodies directly in its Constitution. Protected by law in some countries, restricted or banned in others, voluntary termination of pregnancy is not yet a given in all countries. Let’s take a look at the status of abortion around the world on 8 March 2024, International Women’s Rights Day.


Countries that guarantee abortion without justification


The American NGO Center for Reproductive Rights has been monitoring legislative developments in the field of abortion around the world for three decades, and in January 2024 it drew up an assessment of the international abortion situation. The organisation reported that 77 states currently allow abortion without restrictions other than the length of gestation, which varies from country to country.


These include the majority of European countries. From Spain to Austria, via Romania and Norway, the continent is in favour of abortions on request, with no justification required.


© Malvestida / Unsplash


This is also the case in Canada, Argentina, Colombia, South Africa, Benin, Tunisia, China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Vietnam and Australia.


Some countries require justification


According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, 40% of women worldwide live in a country that restricts or prohibits their right to abortion. And sometimes, even if abortion is permitted, some countries will only tolerate it if justification is provided.


There are two types of justification for countries that restrict access to abortion: medical justification, for reasons of physical or mental health or for therapeutic reasons, and socio-economic justification, if the woman’s living environment does not allow her to have a child.


Medical justification is required in 47 countries around the world, including Peru, Bolivia, Morocco, Algeria, Cameroon, DRC, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Malaysia.


Socio-economic justification is requested by 12 countries and territories. They include Ethiopia, Zambia, the United Kingdom, Japan, India and Taiwan.


© Gayatri Malhotra / Unsplash


Access to abortion if the pregnant woman’s life is in danger


44 countries accept health reasons as justification for having an abortion. Brazil, Chile, Mali, Tanzania, Syria, Libya, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, Iran, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Burma and Indonesia are among the countries that allow access to abortion if, and only if, the pregnant woman’s life is in danger.


Absolute prohibition


There are 21 countries in the category that prohibit all voluntary termination of pregnancy : the Dominican Republic, Mauritania, Senegal, Madagascar, Congo, Egypt, the Philippines, Iraq and Laos.


While the abortion situation varies from country to country, as these figures show, it remains more threatened than fully established throughout the world. All the more so when we look at the evolution of abortion in the United States. On 24 June 2022, the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, which protected the right to abortion throughout the country. From now on, the States of the territory may pursue their own policies on abortion. Abortion is now banned in 14 states, including Alabama, Texas and Louisiana, and endangered in Montana, Indiana and Ohio. While some states have restricted this right, others have extended it to preserve it further.


© Gayatri Malhotra / Unsplash


Access to control over one’s own body is still uncertain for women, who are still insufficiently protected by the laws of their country. All the more so since, according to Amnesty International, the proportion of women who have recourse to abortion is virtually the same whether or not the country authorises abortion.


Worldwide, clandestine abortions remain the third leading cause of maternal mortality.



Featured photo : © Gayatri Malhotra / Unsplash

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