International Abortion Restrictions

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 did not contain a provision for reproductive rights, but the United Nations approved the Proclamation of Teheran in 1968 at the World Conference for Human Rights, which defined reproductive rights as human rights. The UN also included full access to reproductive health services as part of its Millennium Development Goals to be accomplished by 2015.

Many European countries, such as Italy, Germany, France, Spain and Portugal, restrict abortion more than the US, forbidding it after 14 weeks of pregnancy. Ireland is in the throes of an abortion debate, as its Prime Minister and reproductive rights advocates push for an exception to the country's absolute ban on abortion following the death of a woman whose life could have been saved from septicemia but for the presence of a fetal heartbeat. Despite some restrictions, European countries largely allow [PDF] for abortions where the mother's life or health is in danger, in cases of rape or incest, for socioeconomic reasons and on request.

Latin American countries enforce [PDF] some of the world's most stringent anti-abortion laws, in addition to the world's highest rates of unsafe abortions. There are signs that changes are imminent, with the consideration in March 2007 of the decriminalization of abortion in Mexico City for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Colombia has eased its absolute abortion ban, the Argentina Supreme Court ruled that rape victims should not be prevented from opting for abortion and Uruguay in October 2012 passed a bill to legalize abortions in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy after years of bills and vetoes.

However, in May 2013, the Supreme Court of El Salvador refused to reconsider that country's complete ban on abortions, despite international urging to do so. The Court denied the request of doctors to perform a therapeutic abortion on a woman pregnant with a fetus developing without a brain where the woman's life was threatened by kidney failure and lupus symptoms aggravated by her pregnancy. After the ruling, El Salvador's health ministry allowed the woman's doctors to perform a C-section in order to save her life because at 26 weeks, her pregnancy had advanced to a stage not regulated by the country's strict abortion laws.

All African nations permit [PDF] abortions to save the mother's life or to preserve her health, but very few allow for cases of rape or incest, or upon request. Asian countries present [PDF] diverse differences in their abortion laws. Although India, China, Nepal and Cambodia allow liberal access to abortion, the majority of procedures are conducted in substandard conditions and present safety challenges. Iraq, Oman, Laos and the Philippines have outlawed abortion, but the majority of Asian countries permit abortion without reason restrictions within gestational time limits.


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