Before we jump into discussing different international policies regarding abortion, I thought it might be useful to take a second and clarify what has gone on, and what is currently going on at home: the history of the struggle to legalize abortion in the U.S., the current abortion policy in the United States, and the current presidential candidates’ positions on the practice.
1860’s: All states pass comprehensive abortion laws…most of which remain until 1973
1965: all states still prohibited abortion (with some exceptions, which varied by state, such as cases of rape or incest, or cases in which the mother’s life was endangered of the fetus was deformed)
1967: Governor Ronald Reagan signed the most liberal abortion law of the times permitting freedom of choice during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy (in California)
1970: Hawaii, Alaska, New York allow abortion in the first trimester
1973: ABORTION LEGAL in the U.S.: Roe vs. Wade declared most existing state abortion laws unconstitutional
*allowed women to freely seek abortions without restrictions during the first trimester
*states can place limitations (restrict to issues regarding the health of the pregnant woman) during the second semester
*states can make third trimester states illegal, except as necessary to preserve the health of the woman (*health* broadly defined)
1976: Hyde Amendment is passed, barring the use of Medicaid funds to provide abortions
1977: Hyde Amendment revised to allow Medicaid to fund abortions in the case of rape, incest, or severe endangerment of the mother
1977-1982: various protests and acts of vandalism against abortion clinics
1995: U.S. clinical trials of mifepristone (RU486…aka abortion pill)
1995: Republicans lead the path to banning partial birth abortions; bill vetoed by Clinton in 1996 and 1997
1998: celebrates the 25th anniversary of abortion being legal in the U.S.
2000: FDA approves RU486
2003: partial birth abortions banned (Bush signs bill into action)
2006: several states enacted “trigger laws” (making abortion a felony) which will take effect if Roe vs. Wade is overturned
2008: Roe vs. Wade still upheld (States have passed laws to restrict late term abortions, require parental notification for minors, and mandate the disclosure of abortion risk information to patients prior to the procedure)
Being that the current administration is only in office for about three more months, it may be relevant to familiarize ourselves with the two presidential candidates’ positions on abortion and thus what will enter the political discussion when one of them takes office in January. I will make the greatest attempt to be as unbiased as possible in my presentation of the candidates’ positions, and thus will take information from only each respective candidates’ official campaign website.
Senator John McCain has publicly noted that “At its core, abortion is a human tragedy” and is an active supporter of ending the now-legal practice. He believes that legalized abortion at the national level is morally unjust and thus supports the overturning, or reversal of the “flawed” judgment of Roe vs. Wade. Overturning Roe vs. Wade would return the question of abortion to the individual states so that the states could independently decide whether they wanted to make abortion legal on a state-by-state basis.
Senator Barack Obama believes in a woman’s right to reproductive choice and thus is an avid supporter of maintaining the now-legal practice of abortion. He believes that legalized abortion at the national level is just and as President will thus oppose any attempt to overturn or reverse the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe vs. Wade.
An international overview of current abortion policy:
U.S., Canada, Russia, South Africa, France, Italy, Austria, Romania, Hungary, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey, Prague, Switzerland, Croatia, Bosnia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, China, North Korea, Cambodia, Vietnam, Greenland:
Legal to abort on request, but not yet legal throughout the entire country:
Mexico and Australia
Legal for rape, maternal life, health, mental health, socioeconomic factors, and/or fetal defects:
Zambia, United Kingdom, Finland, India, Uruguay, Japan:
Illegal with exception for rape, maternal life, health, fetal defects, and/or mental health:
Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Burkina, Ghana, Liberia:
Illegal with exception for maternal life, health, and/or mental health:
Majority of Africa (Angola, Uganda, Sudan, Ethiopia, Chad, Níger, Nigeria, D.R.C., Tanzania, Somalia, Kenya, Algeria, Mali, Central African Republic, Rwanda, Malawi, Mozambique, Madagascar, Sierra Leone, Guinea), Ireland, Argentina, Peru, Venezuela, Paraguay, Honduras, Guatemala, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Afganistán, Pakistan, Oman, Yemen, Papua New Guinea.:
Illegal with exception for rape, maternal life, health, and/or mental health:
Cameroon, Thailand, Brazil, Bolivia:
Nicaragua, El Salvador, Chile:
Each week, I’m going to try and focus on a specific country’s abortion policies just to give us a better international context with which to better understand our own country’s policies. This week, I chose to focus on South Africa.
- restrictively legal (i.e. allowed only under limited circumstances) until 1997
- 1997 widespread access to abortion legalized
- Current stipulations:
- A female of any age can legally seek abortion services
- No male consent is required
- Parental consent suggested if under 18, but not mandatory
- Parental or partner consent mandatory if female is mentally ill
- Time period:
- 12 weeks pregnant or less: no reasons need to be given
- 13-20 weeks pregnant: woman can seek abortion if she became pregnant by rape or incest, her own physical or mental health is at stake, or if her economic/social position is not conducive to having a child
- >20 weeks pregnant: abortion is only legal if the mother’s life is endangered