16 countries with the world’s strictest abortion laws

·6-min read
Pro-choice demonstrators stand behind an anti-abortion protestor as they gather outside the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC, on May 4, 2022. - The Supreme Court is poised to strike down the right to abortion in the US, according to a leaked draft of a majority opinion that would shred nearly 50 years of constitutional protections. The draft, obtained by Politico, was written by Justice Samuel Alito, and has been circulated inside the conservative-dominated court, the news outlet reported. Politico stressed that the document it obtained is a draft and opinions could change. The court is expected to issue a decision by June. The draft opinion calls the landmark 1973 Roe v Wade decision
Pro-choice demonstrators stand behind an anti-abortion protestor as they gather outside the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC, on 4 May. (Getty Images)

The US Supreme Court is currently considering whether to overturn a decades-old ruling that legalised abortion nationwide.

A draft decision, leaked late on Monday, showed a majority of justices are prepared to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v Wade decision that protects abortion rights.

Such a move would dramatically reduce reproductive rights in the US and mean access to abortion services is no longer a constitutional right. Each state would have the right to outlaw the procedure.

According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, 90 million women of reproductive age worldwide – or 5% – live in countries where abortion is completely illegal.

Here, Yahoo News UK looks at the laws in other nations where access to abortion is permitted only under extreme circumstances, or banned altogether.

Watch: Biden and Harris blast US Supreme Court move to "deny women healthcare"

Andorra

Abortion in Andorra is illegal in all cases – even when the mother's life is in danger.

Women who consent to an abortion or induce one themselves could be jailed for up to two-and-a-half years.

Anyone who performs an abortion with the consent of their patient could be jailed for up to four years, and this can increase to six if they are a medical practitioner who aborts the foetus for financial profit.

If the termination is carried out against the will of the patient, the imprisonment can be up to 10 years for the practitioner. This increases to 12 if the patient dies.

There have been attempts to legalise abortion in Andorra. In 2018, one such attempt prompted Pope Francis to intervene over fears the legalisation would cause Andorra to lose the support of the Vatican and impact the governance of the country.

Principality of Andorra, view of the parish of Encamp, with Sant Roma de les Bons Church and the medieval Torre del Moros defence tower overlooking the village from the hillside.
Abortion in Andorra is illegal in all cases - even when the mother's life is in danger. (Getty)

Democratic Republic of Congo

Abortion in the DR Congo is largely prohibited, but it is accepted that one can be carried out to save a woman's life.

However, access to those services in the nation is reduced, and women have limited access to reliable procedures.

Congo has been a signatory to the Maputo Protocol since March 2018, which directs states to legalise abortion in cases where a woman's physical and mental health is at jeopardy or in cases of rape, incest, and foetal anomaly.

Dominican Republic

Abortion in the Dominican Republic has been completely illegal with no exceptions since 2009 when a constitutional amendment was passed in congress, declaring the right to life is "inviolable from conception until death".

Since the law was passed, the number of maternal deaths linked to abortion has risen.

Egypt

Abortion in Egypt is illegal unless the woman's life is in danger or, in rare cases, if there is a severe problem with the foetus.

To have one carried out, two doctors must sign approval.

Anyone who induces an abortion can face a prison sentence, and doctors who carry out the procedure without the correct consent may also be jailed.

However, convictions are uncommon, as the prosecution must be able to prove the woman was pregnant in the first place and the way in which the pregnancy was ended.

depressed women hand hold medicine with a glass of water, healthcare and medicine recovery concept
El Salvador has some of the world's strictest abortion laws, with the procedure banned without exception since 1998. (Getty)

El Salvador

El Salvador has some of the world's strictest abortion laws, with the procedure banned without exception since 1998.

More than 180 women who experienced obstetric emergencies were prosecuted for abortion or aggravated homicide in the past 20 years.

Haiti

Abortion in Haiti is illegal under any circumstance.

Women on the island have turned to other means to terminate pregnancies, and a 2013 study found that underground abortions accounted for 30% of maternal deaths.

Iraq

Abortion is illegal in Iraq, unless the woman's life is in danger.

Jamaica

Having an abortion – or even talking about it with a doctor – is illegal in Jamaica, except to save a woman’s life or to preserve her mental and physical health, according to the Offences Against the Persons Act.

Women can receive a life sentence for having an abortion without the correct permission - although this has never been enforced - and those who assist in the process can be jailed for up to three years.

If an abortion is required, the woman must have her spouse's consent.

In order to perform an abortion on the grounds of mental health, foetal impairment, rape or incest, the approval of two specialists must be obtained.

Watch: Pro-Abortion rights protesters gather

Laos

Abortion is illegal in Laos except to save a woman's life.

Anyone caught performing an abortion can be imprisoned from two-five years.

Madagascar

Abortion is strictly illegal in Madagascar, even in cases of rape and incest.

It is punishable by 10 years in prison, and despite attempts to relax laws, women are still putting themselves at risk but opting for backstreet abortions.

In 2017, Madagascar's parliament voted for a law which kept it illegal, despite campaigns.

Local media has estimated 25% of women have turned to illegal abortions at some point in their lives.

Malta

Women in Malta are denied access to abortion, even if their lives are at risk.

It is the only EU member state that completely prohibits the procedure.

Women face up to three years in jail if they have an abortion.

Sailing boats on Senglea marina in Grand Bay, Valetta, Malta
Malta is the only EU member state that completely prohibits the procedure. (Getty)

Mauritania

Mauritanian law only permits abortion when the mother's life is at risk.

This means women who are raped cannot access a termination, and face a possible jail sentence if they have the procedure.

Nicaragua

Abortion in Nicaragua is completely illegal.

Before 2006, the law allowed pregnancies to be terminated for "therapeutic" reasons.

Anyone who performed an abortion with a woman's consent can be jailed for up to six years.

If the woman consented, then she and whoever performed it would face a sentence of four years, and if she attempted a self-induced termination, the term of imprisonment was up to eight years.

A person who performs, or attempts to perform, an abortion, and, as a result, causes injury to the pregnant woman could be jailed for four to 10 years, or six to 10 years if it causes her death.

Philippines

Anti-abortion laws in the Philippines derive from its time as a colony of Spain.

Abortion has been prohibited for more than a century. About 1,000 Filipino women die each year from complications from abortions.

Senegal

Senegal prohibits abortion but its code of medical ethics allows it if three doctors agree it is needed to save a woman's life.

A 2014 study showed the rules force women to seek clandestine abortions and, as a last resort, kill their own infants.

Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's parliament has passed two bills which would permit women to have an abortion up to 12 weeks.

But despite lawmakers trying to push it into law, it has been held up by religious groups who oppose its implementation.

A 2018 study found abortions were the third highest reasons for a maternal deaths in the country, as they were being carried out unsafely.

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