All the Countries Where Abortion is Illegal

Posted by Michell Mor on November 30th, 2022

What are all the countries where abortion is illegal? If you are someone looking for abortion services and are not sure about the rules, this is an important question to ask. Sadly, with the rise of populism around the world, abortion rights have come under brutal attack in many countries. The latest news on this front comes from the United States of America. In June this year, the country’s highest court overturned a previous court ruling - commonly known as Roe vs. Wade - which guaranteed abortion as a constitutional right. As a result, abortion is now illegal in many states, with many more states working on enforcing the ban.

 Recent Reversal of Abortion Laws

The USA joins the league of a handful of countries which have rolled back abortion rights in the recent decades. This includes Poland which in 2020 prohibited abortion under almost all circumstances. Other countries in this list are:

  • El Salvador - complete ban in 1998
  • Nicaragua - complete ban in 2006
  • Honduras - complete ban in 1982, added to the constitution in 2021
  • Russia - abortion made more difficult in 2011
  • Belarus - restrictions added to the law in 2013
  • Türkiye - unofficial yet de facto ban under Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government (2003-present)
  • Iran - effectively banned since 1979, with new restrictions added in 2021    

Complete Prohibition of Abortion

In addition to some of the countries mentioned above with complete abortion bans (El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras), there are some more countries which don’t allow abortion under any circumstances. Malta is one of them. It is the only European Union country which bans abortion with no exceptions.

Andorra, Dominican Republic, Madagascar, the Philippines and Haiti are the other remaining countries that fall under this category. 

Abortion Allowed Under Certain Circumstances

A big chunk of countries, though don’t allow abortion on demand, permit abortion under certain conditions. These conditions are:

  1. To save the pregnant person’s life: this includes countries such as Afghanistan, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brazil, Congo, Guatemala, Palestine, Paraguay, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Syria, Yemen etc. 
  1. To preserve health: this is allowed in Qatar, Malaysia, Peru, Cameroon, Pakistan, Tanzania, Bahamas, Costa Rica, Egypt, Jamaica, Jordan, Niger, Oman, Sierra Leone etc. 
  1. In case of rape: this is permitted in Ecuador, Eritrea, Kenya, Mexico, Liberia, Japan etc.
  1. In case of fetal impairment: allowed in Gabon, Maldives, Bolivia, Zimbabwe, Panama, Bhutan, Ethiopia, Ghana, Indonesia, Burkina Faso, Rwanda, Chile, Angola etc.
  1. For broad social or economic reasons: permitted in Hungary, Finland, Barbados, Benin, India, Taiwan etc.

Unfortunately, if your pregnancy doesn’t fulfil any of these conditions, you cannot access abortion legally in these countries.

Please note that due to the limitation of space, we have not mentioned all the countries that fall under each category. Also, there are many countries that fall under more than one category. If you are unsure about the exact nature of abortion laws in your country, please take a look at this Wikipedia table or contact us here:

Consequences of Making Abortion Illegal

It is a well-known and established fact that banning abortions don’t end abortions. Unfortunately, all that abortion bans do is force people to opt for illegal and often unsafe abortions. This has serious legal, health and economic ramifications for those wanting an abortion.

If abortion is illegal in a country and someone tries to get one, they risk getting caught and punished. This could lead to a penalty fee or time in prison as has happened in Ecuador. Between 2009 and 2014, there were 40 cases against illegal abortion. From 2015 till 2019, the cases rose to 378. In worst case, having an illegal abortion can also lead to death penalty as is now likely in Iran.

Furthermore, in the absence of legal abortion systems and structures, people have no option but to look towards clandestine and unsafe alternatives. This is when abortion is carried out in the absence of medical experts, safe clinics and medical equipment, and genuine medicines. According to the World Health Organization, unsafe abortions are the leading cause of maternal deaths and morbidities. Some of the physical health risks associated with unsafe abortion are incomplete abortion with pregnancy tissue still remaining in the uterus, heavy bleeding called haemorrhage, infection, piercing of uterus and damage to the genital tract and internal organs. Not to mention the effect of all this on the person’s mental health.

Another serious consequence of banning abortion is the economic burden put on those seeking the medical service. On one hand, if a person is forced to continue with their pregnancy and give birth, they are compelled to take care of all the needs of another person. On the other hand, if the person decides to have an abortion, they have to travel to another place or give in to the financial demands of illegal abortion providers. All of this can have a huge monetary cost for the pregnant person.

Abortion on Demand

Thankfully, not all is lost. There are many countries that recognise abortion as a right and offer it on demand. The stage or term of the pregnancy - also called the gestational age - when abortion is allowed differs from country to country and stands somewhere between five weeks to 24 weeks. Some of the countries that offer abortion on demand are Singapore, the Netherlands, Thailand, Tunisia, Uruguay, Tajikistan, and Nepal among others.

In abortion rights circles, there is an ongoing discussion on whether gestational age limits are necessary for abortion. In the absence of scientific evidence, many accuse lawmakers of using gestational age limits as an unnecessary restriction on open access to abortion care

Recent Wins and Positive Trends

Despite the assault of populism on abortion rights, there has been massive wins and positive developments in this area in recent years. Thanks to the determined struggle of abortion rights activists and lawmakers, many countries have liberalised their abortion laws. The most recent example comes from Colombia which decriminalised abortion early this year. Thanks to this historic decision, abortion is now allowed in the first 24 weeks of pregnancy. Before this development, abortion was only allowed under very few conditions and was punishable by law. In late 2020, Argentina also legalised abortion in a landmark decision. Similarly, Ireland, South Korea, and New Zealand have also made abortion easier in recent times.

Author Bio:

Michell Mor, eHealth Content Specialist at Women First Digital, an organization helping women about contraception and sexual health.

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Michell Mor

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Michell Mor
Joined: July 27th, 2022
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