The reversal of Roe v. Wade has provoked the ire of pro-abortion activists, many of whom seek unfettered abortion access, anywhere and anytime. Even now, as some states allow abortions through the end of the first trimester of pregnancy, or to the point of fetal viability, the United States is unusual for the extent to which it permits abortion. Should pro-abortion activists get their way, our country would remain an extreme outlier.
Examining other countries shows us just how liberal America’s abortion laws have been.
Few countries allow abortions to be performed on a whim late into a pregnancy. In fact, countries who do allow abortion restrict it to a far greater extent than American activists push for domestically. These examples demonstrate how far afield “abortion on demand” instances are from the norm.
Let’s take a look:
Africa’s 1.2 billion residents are split between Islam and Christianity, with a greater population of Muslims in the north and east of the continent, while Christians are numbered in the west and south. Islam, like biblical Christianity, is critical of the practice of abortion, and Muslim theologians tend to approve of abortion in cases of danger to the mother or a severe disability in the pre-born child. Regardless of the circumstance, it is restricted to the first few weeks of pregnancy.
In accord with the religious worldviews of Christianity and Islam, the laws in African states tend to promote life:
- Egypt, a majority Muslim state, prohibits abortion unless there is a threat to the mother’s life. Its prohibition is comparable to other Muslim-majority countries in North Africa; among them, only Tunisia allows abortions-on-demand during any portion of gestation.
- Kenya currently allows abortions only when the mother’s life is threatened. A 2019 court decision further allowed abortions in incidents of sexual violence.
- Nigeria is split nearly equally between Muslims and Christians; abortion is against the law in both the Muslim north and Christian south of the country.
- South Africa, perhaps the most westernized nation in Africa, allows abortion for any reason during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and further permits abortion up to 20 weeks in cases of rape, incest, health risk or poverty.
East Asia represents a secularizing global frontier. Accordingly, the nations there—both democracies and dictatorships—see abortion as a reproductive rights issue, instead of one that is tied to religious beliefs.
- China promoted (and often, forced) abortion as a means of family planning, leading to sex-selective abortion against female babies for decades. Their “One Child Policy” hearkened back to a thirty-year era where mothers were more likely to abort their additional children than face the repercussions of having two or more children. Though this rule was repealed in the last decade, abortions are generally accessible for any reason throughout the country.
- Japan allows abortions up to the 22nd week of pregnancy for economic or health-related reasons. Abortions may be performed after that point for life-preserving reasons.
- South Korean women can obtain abortions through the 14th week of pregnancy for any reason, and through the 24th week if the pregnancy is the result of rape.
- North Korea’s abortion laws are somewhat shrouded, and it seems like the government has shifted them from a very pro-abortion stance to a pro-life stance. This shift is not for moral reasons, but is meant to combat the demographic issues associated with a falling birth rate. Some North Korean defectors report that the government performs forced abortions and infanticide.
It is unfortunate to examine Europe, the longtime bastion of Christianity, as it abandons the biblical teachings on abortion and infanticide completely. In many ways, Europe now exemplifies what abortion laws could look like in America if progressives pursue their agenda to its logical conclusion. The Netherlands embodies this best: abortion on demand, with euthanasia of infants and assisted suicide of adults commonplace. Luckily, other states in Europe still limit abortion access to an earlier point, but the European pro-life movement has much work to do.
- France’s liberalization of abortion access mirrored that of the United States, though they have allowed abortions through 14 weeks, as opposed to the lengthier legalizations that are practiced in the United States.
- Germany technically outlaws all abortions, though those performed in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy are not prosecuted; abortions outside of that timeframe are decriminalized in the case of physical or mental duress of the mother.
- The Netherlands’ abortion and infanticide laws demonstrate the ominous direction that many anti-life activists want to take the United States. Abortions are legal up until the point of viability, typically placed around the 24th week of pregnancy. Abortions may occur after that point on medical grounds. The Netherlands stands nearly alone (with their neighbor Belgium) in allowing parents to kill their children if they experience incurable medical conditions or severe pain. Euthanasia is also permitted, and practiced, for children under 18 who experience incurable medical conditions.
- Spain allows abortions to be practiced up to the 14th week of gestation; cases may be considered after that point if they pose a significant medical risk to the mother. However, medical practitioners may conscientiously object from performing abortions.
- The United Kingdom has very liberal abortion guidelines. A pregnancy may be terminated for many reasons, including fear of poverty, up until the 24th week of pregnancy. Northern Ireland restricts the practice somewhat, allowing abortions to occur only through the 12th week of pregnancy, and on limited grounds after that point.
Latin America, like Africa and the Middle East, possesses a decidedly religious worldview. Roman Catholicism is the dominant faith, with 69% of the population following the church in Rome; a further 18% profess a Protestant affiliation. The Roman Catholic Church is decidedly pro-life, which may have encouraged the political norms in the region to lean toward pro-life positions. Still, there is not a perfectly pro-life reputation in this region; a mixed bag of abortion laws presently exist:
- Argentina legalized abortion through the 14th week of pregnancy in late 2020. Abortion is allowable for longer periods in the case of rape and incest, or if the life of the mother is threatened.
- In Brazil, abortion is only legal in cases where the mother’s life is threatened, when the child is conceived through rape or incest, or when the child suffers from anencephaly (a particular birth defect). The Supreme Court of Brazil ruled that abortions in the first trimester should not be criminalized, though this ruling has not been promulgated into law.
- Colombia’s Supreme Court legalized abortion through 24 weeks in 2022, making it one of the most pro-abortion states in Latin America. This is part of a long-term shift in Colombia’s national character, as the legalization of abortion was proceeded by the decriminalization of euthanasia in 1997.
- In the “Republic” of Cuba, the Caribbean’s longtime communist bastion, abortion was legalized a half-century ago. The secular government promotes contraception and abortion, the latter of which is utilized by many women as if it were a form of contraception. As a result, Cuba’s abortion rate is distressing: for every 100 babies born alive, 72 are aborted. The fact that Cuba is now experiencing a demographic crisis—a shrinking, greying population—comes as no shock.
The states of Oceania, influenced separately by British colonial legacies and Southeast Asian powers, bear equally split abortion stances: while some states forbid the practice entirely, others allow abortion through the point of viability.
- Australia’s federal system of the government, like the United States, ensures that abortion laws are not equal across the board. Most Australian states allow abortions without barrier at 20 weeks gestation, though some allow for abortions up to 28 weeks.
- Indonesia, which boasts the largest Muslim population of any country, allows abortion in cases of medical emergencies, or when the baby is conceived through rape up to the sixth week.
- New Zealand passed a law in 2020 which allows abortions without restrictions through the 20th week of pregnancy; abortions can be obtained at later points with a doctor’s approval.
- Papua New Guinea forbids abortion unless the life of the mother is threatened.
- In the Philippines, abortion remains illegal apart from cases of rape or incest, or when the life of the mother is threatened.
These examples remind us that the work done by the pro-life movement in the United States is merely the beginning of a long-term campaign to preserve life worldwide. After all, making disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20) requires us to save the pre-born lives that are threatened abroad. Christ’s kingdom exists beyond our national borders (John 18:36); to fully realize this reminder, the pro-life movement needs to advocate for mothers and children in those countries that still push abortion as a solution for unplanned pregnancies.
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