Abortion Around The World

When I write articles for our blog, I can get a little tunnel-visioned and focus on our clinic, escorts, and Louisville, although I am aware of the effects of reproductive restrictions in the rest of the world. There are so many places in the world that are more restrictive for reproductive rights than Kentucky.

Women on Waves is an organization that tracks abortion laws worldwide.

  • Approximately 25% of the world’s population lives in countries with highly restrictive abortion laws – mostly in Latin America, Africa and Asia. In some countries, such as in Chile, women still go to prison for having an illegal abortion, and abortion is not allowed even in cases of rape or when the pregnancy endangers the life of the woman.

The Center for Reproductive Rights has an easy-to-read document (pdf) compiled from figures in 2008. Their breakdown shows only 56 countries allow abortion without restriction as to reason. Thirty-two of those 56 countries have other restrictions on abortion, such as gestational periods or parental approval. Turkey even requires spousal approval.

What about the other countries? What happens to real people’s lives seeking abortions in those countries with restrictions?

Ireland bans abortion in all except for cases when the mother’s life is in danger. Anyone seeking an abortion in Ireland must travel to Britain or other countries. Not everyone can afford this expense.

  • The number of women contacting a charity that helps people in Ireland seek abortions in Britain is set to double for the third year in a row, according to new figures released ahead of major demonstrations in Belfast on Saturday by pro-choice and anti-abortion campaigners.
  • Three women have told the Guardian about their experience of being told their babies would die and that they must continue with the pregnancy, potentially to full term. All three travelled to England for abortions, with one describing having to leave Ireland for the procedure as “barbaric”.

The Dominican Republic passed Article 37 of the Dominican Constitution in 2009. It recognizes “the right to life is inviolable from the moment of conception and until death.” This not only creates a ban on the death penalty, but also on all abortions for any reason.

When a 16-year with leukemia was discovered by physicians in the Dominican Republic to also be 9 weeks pregnant, chemotherapy was delayed because of possible damage to the fetus due to Article 37..

  • Earlier this week, Rosa Hernandez, the girl’s mother, said she had been trying to convince doctors and the Dominican government to make an exception so that her daughter’s life could be saved.
  • “My daughter’s life is first. I know that (abortion) is a sin and that it goes against the law … but my daughter’s health is first,” Hernandez said.

People facing an unplanned pregnancy, irregardless of the country’s laws, will seek abortions. This means there is an increase in unsafe abortions. The World Health Organization details the mortality rates and injuries caused by these unsafe abortions.

  • In countries where abortion is highly restricted by law and/or unavailable, many women have little choice but to resort to unsafe means. Some 47 000 women are estimated to die as a result of unsafe abortions every year, a further 5 million suffer temporary or permanent injuries, and there are huge financial costs to women, their families, communities, and health systems. Injuries from unsafe abortion include severe bleeding, infection, injury to the uterus or genitals, and infertility.

The World Health Organization states in their publication:

  • An estimated 21.6 million unsafe abortions took place worldwide in 2008, almost all in developing countries. Numbers of unsafe abortions have increased from 19.7 million in 2003 although the overall unsafe abortion rate remains unchanged at about 14 unsafe abortions per 1000 women aged 15–44 years. This increase in number of unsafe abortions without a corresponding increase in the rate is mainly due to the growing population of women of reproductive age.

This cost around the world in lives, permanent injuries and anguish is unacceptably high.

If figuring out the restrictions and regulations are not confusing enough, then there are the anti-abortion protesters bringing stigma, harassment and stress to countries with fewer restrictions.

One of the long-term readers and commenters of our blog brought this UK group to our attention. (Thanks, Oubli!). They seem to be mimicking the tactics, talking points and graphics used by anti-abortion protesters in the US.

  • What they do not deserve are anti-abortion protesters standing outside the clinic they attend waving placards and shouting insults at them. Abort67 is an anti-abortion group – a collection of like-minded individuals who see fit to gather outside BPAS clinics and inflict their views on the women trying to access our services. They wave banners with explicit pictures of foetuses and shout at the women as they enter. They have a camera set up on a tripod, which gives the impression they are filming or photographing those entering and leaving the building. We don’t know what images have been recorded and what they are used for but the end result is the women seeking our help often feeling scared and intimidated.

Toronto, Canada has been fighting the same protester in court since 1994 when she was ordered to “stay more than 20 metres away from Toronto abortion clinics.” The picture taken this year in Ottawa of anti-abortion protesters reminds me of protesters in the US.

Anti-abortion protesters take part in the National March for Life demonstration on Parliament Hill in Ottawa May 10. One of Canada’s most active anti-abortion protesters has lost an appeal of a criminal charge to the Supreme Court of Canada. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

Not all the protests around the world are anti-abortion. In Madrid last month, there were protests against the government’s plans to restrict abortion.

There are so many countries and so many stories. We could probably fill up a blog for days. Instead, I am going to suggest you read RH Reality Check’s Global Roundup. They publish a weekly article concerning reproductive issues around the world.


REMINDER: If you are interested in escorting, don’t forget the training on September 8th at 9A.  Training is not required, but it’s helpful. Please see our Trainings for Escorts page or email us for additional information.

2 thoughts on “Abortion Around The World

  1. Esperanza, the young lady in the Dominican Republic, died last week because her doctors refused her an abortion. They were afraid of violating their Constitution and being charged with the crime of preforming an abortion.

    Although Dr. Fondeuer was the one who called international attention to the young women’s plight I find his logic very flawed, misleading and it plays into the hands of anti-choicers.

    “Dr. Liliam Fondeuer argued that this case was not the same as abortion since the procedures were necessary to save the mother’s life.”

    I’ve been told the same thing by anti-choicers that my abortion to terminate my tubal pregnancy wasn’t an abortion because it was necessary for my health. An abortion is an abortion is an abortion – it’s a medical procedure. It’s the same whether it’s medically indicated (fetal or maternal) or elective. To say a life saving abortion is not an abortion is ridiculous.

    • Oubli,

      I saw the news that Esperanza had died. It made me want to cry for her and all of the women in the Dominican Republic. You are right, an abortion is an abortion. The reason for performing the medical procedure doesn’t matter. The logic to call it something different when it is performed to save a woman’s life always reminds me of the “The Only Moral Abortion is My Abortion” article. http://mypage.direct.ca/w/writer/anti-tales.html


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