How many countries allow abortion on request, where is abortion completely prohibited, and more

At least 26 countries do not permit abortion under any circumstance

Updated - December 04, 2021 10:35 pm IST

Published - March 04, 2020 04:29 pm IST

Pro-abortion activists with green bandanas that read in Spanish "Free Abortion," protest in front of Colombia's Constitutional Court in Bogota.

Pro-abortion activists with green bandanas that read in Spanish "Free Abortion," protest in front of Colombia's Constitutional Court in Bogota.

Argentinian President Alberto Fernandez is planning to introduce a Bill which proposes to legalise abortion in the country. If approved, it will be a significant breakthrough for abortion laws in Latin America, which, together with the Caribbean, is home to at least five of the 26 countries globally where abortion is not permitted under any circumstance.

The map below depicts the legal status of abortion across countries, based on five broad categories:


The categories are:


Category 1: Prohibited altogether

The laws of some countries do not permit abortion under any circumstance, including when the woman's life or health is at risk. About nine crore (5%) women of reproductive age in live in 26 countries that prohibit abortion altogether.

Category 2: To save a woman's life

The laws of some countries permit abortion when the woman's life is at risk.

Also read: Reproductive rights of women are not up for negotiation: Gita Sen

About 35.9 crore (22%) women of reproductive age live in 39 countries that allow abortion to save the woman's life.

Category 3: To preserve health

The laws of as many as 56 countries permit abortion on the basis of health or therapeutic grounds. 23.7 crore (14%) of women of reproductive age live in 56 countries in this category.

Also read: Comment | Seeking a more progressive abortion law

Argentina currently belongs to this category. If the latest Bill gets approved, the country may move to a higher category.

Category 4: Broad social or economic grounds

Apart from health, some countries consider a woman's social or economic circumstances too to permit abortion under a broad range of circumstances. About 38.6 crore people or 23% of women of reproductive age live in 14 countries that fall under this category.

India is among the countries that fall under category 4. The Cabinet has recently approved the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020 (MTP Bill, 2020).

According to the MTP Act, for foetuses aged up to 12 weeks, only one medical practitioner's opinion that the continuance of the pregnancy would involve a risk to the life of the pregnant woman or would pose a grave injury to the woman's physical or mental health, or there is a substantial risk that if the child is born, it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped.

If the foetus is aged between 12 and 20 weeks, the opinions of two medical practitioners that either of the two conditions holds true are required.

A Bill seeking to increase the gestation limit (for rape survivors, victims of incest and minors) was introduced in the Lok Sabha on March 2.

Category 5: On request (gestational limits vary)

59 crore (36%) women of reproductive age live in countries that allow abortion on request. 67 countries globally fall within this category. The most common gestational limit for countries in this category is 12 weeks. Gestational limits are calculated from the first day of the last menstrual period, which is considered to occur two weeks prior to conception. Where laws specify that gestational age limits are calculated from the date of conception, these limits have been extended by two weeks.

Source: Center for Reproductive Rights

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