It is easier for a woman to get an abortion in conservative US states like Texas, Catholic European countries like Poland and Portugal – and even in parts of Latin America – than it is in Northern Ireland.
Abortion laws in Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic are the most restrictive in Europe. Terminations in both jurisdictions are only permissible on the grounds of a threat to the life of the mother
In most other parts of Europe abortion is allowed without restriction up to between 10 and 14 weeks’ gestation. In most countries abortions can be carried out beyond this point, but only on specific grounds.
So, for example, in Greece abortions can be carried out on demand up to a limit of 12 weeks. However, a limit of 19 weeks applies in cases where the pregnancy was the result of rape and 24 weeks where there is a threat to the life or health of the woman and in cases of foetal abnormality that would result in a serious congenital defect.
An exception to these graduated restrictions on abortion is the Netherlands where, the United Nations(UN)notes“abortion is permitted virtually on request at any time between implantation and viability if performed by a physician in a (licensed) hospital or clinic”.
In Poland abortion is legal in certain circumstances, including where the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, in cases of foetal impairment or to avert a danger to the health or life of the pregnant woman. The country has the lowest recorded abortion rate in Europe at just two abortions per 1,000 live births in 2012.
In Finland, Iceland and the UK restrictions are in place yet abortion rates remains relatively high at 174, 223 and 253 terminations per 1,000 live births.
In Catholic Portugal and Spain abortion on demand was introduced as a result of a 2007 Referendum in the former and a 2010 law change in the latter.
However, in both countries it remains contentious. In Portugal a recently adopted bill requires women to pay for terminations and to undergo more stringent tests beforehand. In Spain in 2014 the government had to abandon its plans to enact legislation that would have imposed some of the tightest restrictions in Europe.
By far the highest abortion rate recorded in Europe is in Russia, where 551 abortions were recorded per 1,000 live births in 2011 according to figures compiled by the WorldHealth Organisation(WHO)
The United States is one of around 60 countries that provide legal access to safe abortions. Although abortion has been legal in the US since 1973, access to treatment depends on laws determined by each state, and most states have established gestational limits that vary from 20 to 24 weeks.