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Health News

Abortion laws - global differences


Ireland has some of the strictest abortion laws not only in Europe but the entire world.

Abortion is illegal under all circumstances, except where there is a real and substantial risk to the life (as distinct from the health) of the mother. Even this caveat is not enshrined in law, but rather exists as a legal precedent.

This means that the law in Ireland is more stringent than that of Saudi Arabia – which allows abortion where the mother’s health is at risk, as long as there is permission from her spouse.

Many African countries have similar laws to those in place in Ireland. Nigeria, for example, also allows abortion when it is necessary to save the mother’s life, as does Uganda. In Zimbabwe, the rules are more relaxed. Abortion there is permitted in cases where the mother’s health is at risk, and in cases of rape and incest.

China, the world’s most populous country with 1.2 billion people, limits most families to one child and encourages abortion as a way of controlling population growth.

Similarly, in Canada it has been legal, for any reason up to delivery, since the Supreme Court struck down an anti-abortion law in 1988. 

In the UK, abortion is permitted at any time during the pregnancy when the mother’s life is at risk or if there is a significant risk of foetal abnormality and within 24 weeks to protect her physical or mental health or for social or economic reasons.