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Friday, May 6, 2022

Abortion in Comparative Context

Abortion is becoming a much more salient political isssue.

By Miriam Berger at WP:
The leaked document indicating that the Supreme Court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade included a claim often repeated by antiabortion advocates: that abortion rules in the United States are among the world’s most permissive.

While that is technically the case, there is much more to the story in practice.

A Mississippi law banning most abortions beyond 15 weeks of pregnancy is before the court. At the time the state set that limit in 2018, only six countries besides the United States “permit[ted] nontherapeutic or elective abortion-on-demand after the twentieth week of gestation,” Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. wrote in his draft opinion, quoting findings by the Mississippi state legislature.

In a footnote, Alito cites research by the Charlotte Lozier Institute, which opposes abortion rights, and a 2017 Washington Post article. He notes that two more countries have since joined that group, citing the Center for Reproductive Rights, which advocates for expanded abortion access. The list: Canada, China, Guinea-Bissau, Iceland, the Netherlands, North Korea, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.

The Post article cited in the document, and other Post reporting published more recently, found that few countries allow abortion beyond 15 weeks without restriction — but that many, especially in Europe, permit abortions beyond that cutoff under a wide range of exceptions, including mental health and economic hardship. In the United States, on the other hand, many people do not have access to abortion at any stage, due to the absence of clinics under restrictive state laws.

The world map remains murky when it comes to how countries regulate abortions beyond the first trimester of pregnancy. Overall, the global trend is shifting toward the liberalization of abortion laws, rather than the addition of restrictions.