Partial-birth abortion, conscience clauses, parental notification: Abortion regulations in the United States seem excruciatingly complicated. But they’re nothing compared to the labyrinth of reproductive restrictions and exceptions in other countries, whether it’s a pass for women with mental health problems in Colombia or an absolute ban on all procedures in Chile.
Here to highlight the protean legal status of abortion around the world is an interactive map from the Center for Reproductive Rights. The World’s Abortion Laws 2011 color-codes countries by the relative progressiveness of their abortion policies (green is more progressive; red is less progressive). From there, you can zoom in on the particulars of each nation’s federal mandates.
There are a few surprises. To wit: Parts of Europe aren’t as liberal as you’d think; abortion is illegal in Ireland except to save a woman’s life. In other instances, countries consider factors that aren’t even discussed in the United States, such as a spouse’s consent (e.g., Saudi Arabia and Indonesia); a woman’s age and economic status (Finland); and her mental health (Colombia). In nations like Chile and El Salvador, abortion is considered a crime–even in cases where a woman’s life is at stake.
It’s too bad that the chart doesn’t include historical data, because the really intriguing point is that the world is, on the whole, easing abortion restrictions. According to the Center for Reproductive Rights:
In 1994, 179 governments signed the International Conference on Population and Development Programme of Action, signalling their commitment to prevent unsafe abortion. Since this important milestone, more than 25 countries worldwide have liberalized their abortion laws–while only a handful have tightened legal restrictions on abortion.
Of course, what’s on the books isn’t always reflected in real life, nor do legal protections guarantee access to reproductive care. Consider this statistic on the United States, which, officially, counts among the more progressive nations on women’s health: Nearly 90% of counties don’t have abortion clinics, making it difficult for women, especially poor women who can’t afford to travel, to seek appropriate medical treatment. Now that should be a crime.
[Hat tip to Good]