Memorandum on the legality of 2nd trimester abortions in the countries of the world

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Reed Boland,
Research Associate
Harvard School of Public Health

The following is a list which contains all of the countries in the world with their legal indications for 2nd trimester (and later) abortions, as well as provider and location requirements when indicated in the legal texts.  The list also indicates countries where medical abortion is authorized, although in most cases there is little information as to what point in pregnancy medical abortion is allowed. 
The list should be interpreted keeping in mind the following:
1) in the vast majority of cases, the information included in the list is based on the actual wording of the laws and regulations.  In the case of countries for which the legal texts were not available for examination, the word “unclear” follows the country.   In some cases information provided by IPPF was used.  However, this information is not always complete and occasionally may not be accurate.  Similarly, with respect to medical abortion, much information (included in parentheses) was taken from the Gnuity Health Projects website:  It has not been verified independently.
2) it is sometimes difficult to determine from the legal texts the time limits set for abortions performed after the 1st trimester.  Many countries do not establish such time limits.  In these cases the words “not specified” are used.  Other countries, while not setting time limits, include provisions in their laws from which time limits can be inferred, such as defining “abortion” as a procedure carried out before viability or specifying limits for certain indications, but not for others.  In such cases the word “implied” follows the presumed time limit.  Finally in some cases, the wording of the text is simply not clear or is very convoluted.  The information in the list reflects the best judgment of the compiler.       
3) with respect to the “health” indication, the wording of the texts themselves has been largely followed.  Therefore, the term “mental health” is only used when a text employs that word.  In addition, the nature of the health indication varies widely in the laws.  Sometimes it is meant generally as any threat to health, while on other occasions a law may state that an abortion is allowed only if it is the only way to prevent serious and permanent harm to health.  Before statements about the nature of threat to health required in a particular country for an abortion to be legal, the text of the law should be consulted.
4) the words “life (implied on the ground of necessity)” are used to describe the indications for abortion for some countries.  This means that although the laws of those countries do not explicitly allow an abortion to be performed for any reasons, they are usually interpreted as permitting an abortion to save the life of the pregnant woman on the grounds of “necessity.”  That is, an act which is usually considered illegal may be legally performed if needed to protect a greater good.  A violent act carried out in self-defense is an example, as is abortion.  In the case of abortion the embryo/fetus is destroyed in order to save the life of the pregnant woman.

For more information please access "Abortion laws of the different countries"  - .