International abortion laws: The six nations where it is still illegal to have an abortion

Paraguay's decision to deny a raped 10-year-old an abortion has provoked international attention on global abortion laws

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Indy Lifestyle Online

A 10-year-old child raped by her stepfather has been denied an abortion in Paraguay – but which are the worst nations for abortion laws?

Data, collected by the United Nations and compiled in 2011, breaks countries down into five categories, of which we have taken data from the worst three bands.

Six nations – the Holy See, Malta, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Chile – do not allow abortion under any circumstances.

A further 13 countries have such tight controls upon abortion that for many it is an impossibility. Among these are nations such as Malawi, Iran and Haiti, which although have general principles set in law that appear to support the right to an abortion should the women’s life be in danger, have no legislation.

Finally, the following 25 nations (of which Paraguay is one) have explicit laws allowing abortions in cases when the mother’s life is in danger.

As the case in Paraguay has proved, even in nations ostensibly more progressive the reality is that social factors often exert greater control.

Naomi McAuliffe, Amnesty International My Body My Right campaign manager, said although the broad trend one towards liberalism of abortion laws, there were pockets of concern.

“What we have found is that in central America, when there is a regressive movement on abortion law in one country, there tends to be a domino effect on that country’s neighbours,” she told The Independent.

Nicaragua, which outlawed abortion following a change in law in 2006, may have influenced Mexico’s increasing clampdown on abortion in individual states, Ms McAuliffe said.

“Having said that we have seen some progressive moves,” she continued. “There are some green shoots, so we are not totally pessimistic.”

Global initiatives – such as linking maternal mortality to abortion legality – have done much to help convince countries such as Bangladesh to relax their abortion laws.

Meanwhile, data from a World Health Organisation (WHO) study in 2012 indicated that abortion rates were unaffected by the legality of the procedure – giving campaigners another angle to attempt to convince governments.

“The abortion rate is remarkably consistent, regardless of the law women are always going to need abortion,” Ms McAuliffe said.

“People who are against abortion are not going to stop it, but instead are making sure that women seek unsafe abortions instead.”

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