where are we elsewhere in the world?

By bringing together Congress for a historic vote on Monday March 4, France becomes the first country in the world to integrate the right to abortion into its Constitution. Conversely, several countries have backed down on the issue in recent years, while around twenty others simply do not allow it.


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Jill Biden, the wife of the President of the United States, in a meeting in January 2024 to defend the return of the Roe vs.  Wade (overturned in 2022) who guaranteed the protection of women's right to abortion.  (SAUL LOEB / AFP)

Freedom to abort “remains in danger” : before Congress, Prime Minister Gabriel Attal had warned, before a historic vote. The 925 parliamentarians meeting in Versailles on Monday March 4 brought abortion into the French Constitution, by adopting the text validated by the Assembly and the Senate. France becomes the first country in the world to protect this right by including it in its founding text, unlike several countries which have reduced or even prohibited access to it in recent years.

A right with variable geometry

According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, an American association defending abortion, 88% of women live in a country that allows abortion. The access criteria vary: a majority of countries – such as France – opt for a legal period during which the woman can have an abortion (12 weeks in most cases, fourteen in France). Some establish more or less broad economic and social criteria to authorize women to use it (Great Britain, India). A large number of countries in Africa and South America have stricter criteria: 47 countries authorize it only for health reasons (Algeria, Peru, Pakistan, Poland, etc.); 44 when the life of the pregnant woman is in danger (most restrictive condition).

A sometimes complicated practice

Even if the criteria seem permissive, access to abortion can remain complicated in practice in certain countries. In Italy, abortion is in theory authorized up to 12 weeks of pregnancy, but remains difficult to access due to conscientious objection which allows doctors to refuse to perform a procedure.

According to the latest figures from the Ministry of Health, seven out of ten Italian gynecologists refused, in 2019, to perform an abortion and only 59.6% of the country’s hospitals offered it. Result: the number of abortions has fallen in forty years from 230,000 in 1983 (record year) to 64,000 in 2021. However, the country is going through a demographic winter, so there is not much more desire for children. stronger today than forty years ago.

The decline of several countries on abortion

On June 24, 2022, the American Supreme Court returned to the “Roe vs. Wade” case law: a ruling which, for almost half a century, guaranteed the right of American women to have an abortion. A historic about-face which allowed several states (Texas, Alabama, Wisconsin) to once again ban abortion.

In Poland, the constitutional court also changed its jurisdiction in 2020 and made abortion almost illegal, even in the event of fetal malformation. However, this criterion concerned almost all of the 1,000 legal abortions performed each year in the country. Hungary, at the initiative of the Orban government, adopted a decree in 2022, requiring pregnant women to listen to the heartbeat of the fetus before aborting.

A right still prohibited in several countries

Around twenty countries in the world do not allow abortion. These are mainly countries in Africa (Egypt, Senegal, Togo, Madagascar, Mauritania) and South America (Suriname, Nicaragua, Salvador). Prosecutions are generally initiated there for “aggravated homicide”, punishable by up to 50 years in prison. In Europe, in Malta, women who have an abortion risk a sentence ranging from 18 months to 3 years in prison. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), between 39,000 and 47,000 women die each year as a result of unmedical abortion.

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