Join 3,427 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Abortion Access Worldwide: A Reference
October 27, 2011 9:01 AM   Subscribe

Since 1988, the Center for Reproductive Rights has compiled a visual map of the laws regulating abortion throughout the world. Earlier this month, they released their 2011 Map in pdf and updated their online World Abortion Laws Map in a new interactive format which allows country comparisons and provides text of abortion laws for certain countries. (Via Good: Can I get an Abortion Here? The Abortion Rights Map of the World)
posted by zarq (35 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
What? I thought abortion was legal in India?!
posted by goethean at 9:07 AM on October 27, 2011


goethean: "What? I thought abortion was legal in India?!"

It appears to be legal with restrictions. (Under certain conditions.)
posted by zarq at 9:09 AM on October 27, 2011


This shows that abortion is only legal in the UK due to "socioeconomic reasons"? I tried to look at the listing below the map to confirm this, but the UK doesn't seem to show up in *any* of the columns there.

When can you get an abortion in the UK? I thought it was mostly unrestricted.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:10 AM on October 27, 2011


I totally support the project but of course the first thing I did was click on the big green outline of the U.S. and sadly discovered the extent of their "text" on abortion rights was links to the summaries of two major abortion rights cases.

Over 80 laws and regulations limiting reproductive freedom were passed in the United States. This year. It's nice that we're better than most third world nations but painting the United States green when over 85% of the country has no local access to any medical facility that provides abortions whatsoever is ludicrous.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:13 AM on October 27, 2011 [11 favorites]


tylerkaraszewski: "When can you get an abortion in the UK?"

Reference
Abortion is allowed up to 24 weeks on condition that continuing with the pregnancy involves a greater risk to:

* the physical or mental health of the woman, or
* the physical or mental health of the woman's existing children than having a termination.

When establishing the level of risk to health, doctors can take into consideration a woman's ‘actual or reasonably foreseeable environment', which includes her personal and social situation. Abortion is also allowed if there is a substantial risk that if the child were born it would ‘suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped'.

Abortion is allowed after 24 weeks if there is:

* risk to the life of the woman,
* evidence of severe fetal abnormality, or
* risk of grave physical and mental injury to the woman.

An abortion must be:

* agreed by two doctors (one in an emergency) and
* carried out by a doctor, and
* carried out in a government-approved hospital or clinic.

posted by zarq at 9:16 AM on October 27, 2011


XQUZYPHYR: "I totally support the project but of course the first thing I did was click on the big green outline of the U.S. and sadly discovered the extent of their "text" on abortion rights was links to the summaries of two major abortion rights cases."

This is an overview of laws by country, not states. So the coverage of the US is federal only, it seems. However, I agree with you that it would be more helpful if one were able to drill down by region/state.
posted by zarq at 9:33 AM on October 27, 2011


XQUZYPHYR: "over 85% of the country has no local access to any medical facility that provides abortions whatsoever"

Is this from OP's link? Because I haven't seen it there and it doesn't sound right.
posted by falameufilho at 9:34 AM on October 27, 2011


I have to agree with falameufilho about XQUZYPHYR's 85% number. It seems absurd unless you make local mean "within 1 mile" or something absurd.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:35 AM on October 27, 2011


Ugh, replace first "absurd" with "unbelievable".
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:36 AM on October 27, 2011


The Supreme Court confirmed women's right to choose abortion in 1973, and the courts have upheld that finding in subsequent cases. But access to abortion has been severely eroded. The most recent survey found that 88% of all U.S. counties have no identifiable abortion provider. In non-metropolitan areas, the figure rises to 97%. As a result, many women must travel long distances to reach the nearest abortion provider.
posted by zarq at 9:37 AM on October 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


I feel like I'm hogging the thread. Apologies. Will duck out now.
posted by zarq at 9:37 AM on October 27, 2011


For the the 85% figure, I believe "local access" means "within the county".
posted by adamt at 9:40 AM on October 27, 2011


As of 2000, 87 percent of U.S. counties did not have a single abortion provider. Many states have one facility for the entire state that provides the procedure and they can only be performed at limited times. In many cases doctors are literally flown in because there are none on staff.

If you want to argue that having to commute over to the next county, or the next state, for an abortion could still mean "local" feel free to belabor the point. But the issue at hand is that the majority of the United States suffers a painful, dangerous "silent ban" on a legal medical procedure. And it's unfortunate that the Center for Reproductive Rights, of all places, pretty much ignored this. Saying in a simple sentence that "Americans have access to abortion" is like saying that Americans can own a unicorn without having a license. It doesn't help when the thing you have the right to obtain doesn't exist.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:40 AM on October 27, 2011 [5 favorites]


What's an "identifiable abortion provider"?
posted by falameufilho at 9:42 AM on October 27, 2011


zarq - the same site says:
Each year, almost half of all pregnancies among American women are unintended.1 About half of these unplanned pregnancies, 1.3 million each year, are ended by abortion.1,2"

Of the half of pregnancies that were unplanned, half end in abortion. This implies that *at least* half of women have access to abortion facilities. Given that many of the unplanned pregnancies that aren't terminated are due to the mother wanting to keep the child and not lack of access to abortion facilities, it seems that *most* women do have access to abortion facilities. Even if they have to go to the next county over, which seems an entirely immaterial categorization to me.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:45 AM on October 27, 2011


So does this mean a woman in one of these 87% of counties (a different assertion than "85% of the country") cannot get an abortion at all? Even if there is (to use the terminology from UK health authorities quoted above) "greater risk to the physical or mental health of the woman, or the physical or mental health of the woman's existing children than having a termination"?
posted by falameufilho at 9:48 AM on October 27, 2011


falameufilho - no, it means they have to drive to another county to get an abortion. Here's a map of counties in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania is 280 miles wide, making these counties average about 30 miles across, which is a half-hour trip in a car.

Someone can argue that some percentage of Americans don't have access to cars, but that number is *far* lower than 85%.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:54 AM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


I live in a state (an entire state!) with no identifiable abortion provider.* There is not one single Planned Parenthood in this entire state. It's a state that's approximately an eight hour drive from border to border, so it's not exactly a quick jaunt to get to a state with an abortion provider, ya know? I think some of you may forget how difficult it is (especially for poor women) to get the money together to drive for hours to get an abortion. At that point, access becomes 'severely eroded.' I'm not even going to get into the restrictive abortion laws which were also passed in this state during the past legislative biennium.

*There's no Planned Parenthood and there's no OB/GYN listed on those online 'where to get an abortion' directories that PP links to. I gave up at that point, noted there's a PP in the next state over, and that's where my dollars and energies will go.
posted by librarylis at 9:57 AM on October 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


It depends. There are plenty of states, especially in the midwest and south, where there may only be one or two abortion providers in the state. I know that in North and South Dakota, for example, it's entirely feasible for it to be a six hour drive to the nearest abortion provider. Of course, one also needs someone else to drive them to the provider if there is no public transportation-depending on the type of abortion, it's likely that the woman isn't likely to feel ready to jump up and drive long distances.

So yeah, it does make a difference.
posted by dinty_moore at 9:58 AM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


librarylis: "I live in a state (an entire state!) with no identifiable abortion provider."

Librarlys, this is where it gets murky for me - does this mean a woman in your state cannot get an abortion at all, under any circumstances? Even if the pregnancy is a health risk for the mother?
posted by falameufilho at 10:00 AM on October 27, 2011


tylerkaraszewski: " Of the half of pregnancies that were unplanned, half end in abortion. This implies that *at least* half of women have access to abortion facilities. Given that many of the unplanned pregnancies that aren't terminated are due to the mother wanting to keep the child and not lack of access to abortion facilities, it seems that *most* women do have access to abortion facilities. Even if they have to go to the next county over, which seems an entirely immaterial categorization to me."

Despite what the study says, I think most women in the US do conceivably have some sort of access to an abortion-providing facility. However, ease of access is still an important consideration. There are a lot of factors which are probably not so easily quantified. We know there is a link between poverty, race and abortion, per multiple Guttmacher studies. Poor people do have more abortions than those with the financial means to raise an unplanned child. Black and Latina women have them in disproportionately greater numbers. In addition, a study done in 2008 by Guttmacher said that the trend had shifted over a 30 year span and fewer white teenagers were having abortions and the number of abortions obtained by black and latina women in their 20's and 30's was rising.

Teen mothers, and women of any age living in poverty could conceivably not have easy access to transportation that would get them to a provider. Or the money to afford a procedure.

I think it's convenient to graph this geographically. However, I don't think that provides a reasonable picture of the situation. But that's just my opinion.

Worth noting also: I volunteered at a Planned Parenthood in college, and because I'm a tall, big guy was one of the people who escorted potential patients from the curb into the building past groups of shouting protestors. There are more barriers to obtaining an abortion in this country (and others) that can be printed on a map. Some of them wave signs, shout "baby-killer" and demean women in packs.
posted by zarq at 10:00 AM on October 27, 2011 [5 favorites]


As of 2000, 87 percent of U.S. counties did not have a single abortion provider.

...which is a stupid way to measure it, since LA county has the same population as more than one-third of US counties put together.

The actual, not stupid way to think about it is right there in XQUZYPHYR's link: a titch over a third of American women of childbearing age live in counties with no identifiable provider.

Which is still bad. Really bad. Bad enough that you ought to use that instead of the stupid 87-percent measure, which makes you sound like you're trying to bullshit people.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:05 AM on October 27, 2011 [3 favorites]



Librarlys, this is where it gets murky for me - does this mean a woman in your state cannot get an abortion at all, under any circumstances? Even if the pregnancy is a health risk for the mother?


Meaning there's nobody who does or can do abortions in the state. Most OB-GYN's and family doctors in the US have never performed an abortion.
posted by dinty_moore at 10:06 AM on October 27, 2011


So does this mean a woman in one of these 87% of counties (a different assertion than "85% of the country") cannot get an abortion at all? Even if there is (to use the terminology from UK health authorities quoted above) "greater risk to the physical or mental health of the woman, or the physical or mental health of the woman's existing children than having a termination"?

In some of them, sure, it means that.

In at least some of those counties, abortion will be on a long list of procedures that are totally unavailable in that county because the county is too small. At the extreme, I'm sure that abortion is unavailable in Loving County, TX. I would bet you a very nice meal that open-heart surgery, back surgery, neurological care of any kind, chemotherapy and many other procedures are also completely impossible to obtain in Loving County. Because it has fewer than 100 people. Away from that extreme, there are hundreds of US counties that have fewer than 5,000 people in them, which puts sharp limits on the services that can be provided within-county.

In others where abortion is unavailable, it's again simply because there is nobody in the county who provides them. There doesn't need to be a county ordinance forbidding it. Say nobody in Whatever County performs abortions. Then if there were someone who wanted to sacrifice fetuses to their lord Satan, or whatever fevered nonsense people think women who want an abortion are thinking, they would be unable to do so in that county. If there were a teenager who was terrified about her pregnancy, she'd be unable to get an abortion in that county. If there was someone whose pregnancy showed a fatal abnormality, she would be unable to get an abortion in that county. If there were someone whose life depended on getting an abortion, they'd be unable to do so in that county.*

If nobody in your county provides abortions, or Hondas, or tax preparation, or any other good or service, then it doesn't matter how badly you need it or want it, or what your reason for wanting it is, or whether your life depends on it.

*I don't know if these statistics deal with therapeutic abortions including the excision of ectopic pregnancies; I would imagine that there are some nontrivial number of counties where there is no provider of elective abortions, but some therapeutic abortions are available
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:24 AM on October 27, 2011


*There's no Planned Parenthood and there's no OB/GYN listed on those online 'where to get an abortion' directories that PP links to.

You might be happy to learn that googling for "abortion north dakota" shows a clinic in Fargo.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:28 AM on October 27, 2011


The only time I ever hear anyone using counties in a statistic is during abortion debates. That alone makes me wonder about the framing.
posted by Etrigan at 10:33 AM on October 27, 2011


So Indian law on abortion is a bit complex, partly because of the way it has been written. [1] It may sound rather restrictive, but it actually is quite liberal; it even predates Roe versus Wade by a few years.

Now, while it is true that the Medical Termination of Pregnancy 1971 allows abortions only if it impairs the physical or mental health of the mother or the child, explanation 2 specifically says this:
Where any pregnancy occurs as a result of failure of any device or method used by any married woman or her husband for the purpose of limiting the number of children, the anguish caused by such unwanted pregnancy may be presumed to constitute a grave injury to the mental health of the pregnant woman.
"Socioeconomic" conditions, sure, but the conditions set are quite broad and liberal. In fact, because this predates Roe versus Wade, it was actually more liberal than what was in the US back then.

Now, I do think it's in need of a contemporar-ization, if you will, by dropping the apparent emphasis on *married* women, but just to point out that Indian law in practice is a lot freer than this poster would suggest.

(Also, the main challenge in an Indian context is not in promoting the Right to Choose, but to ensure abortions are done in a medically-safe manner and in empowering expectant mothers into enforcing their will, as opposed to social pressure to their female fetuses.

Basically, the Indian experience is miles away from the dynamics of the debate in the US or elsewhere; not really useful to compare laws here without accounting for all of this social aspect)
posted by the cydonian at 10:35 AM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


The [1] was to point out that we have the world's largest written constitution, and that we love making laws.

Posting from a mobile, and I'm sleepy. Tchuss.

posted by the cydonian at 10:37 AM on October 27, 2011


ROU_Xenophobe: "I would imagine that there are some nontrivial number of counties where there is no provider of elective abortions, but some therapeutic abortions are available"

This is a very important number, honestly. But the fact is on the abortion data you never see (at least I haven't found it) a elective vs. therapeutic breakdown anywhere because it doesn't help push the agendas (of either side, probably). So the experts sit around talking about abortion as if an abortion is an abortion is an abortion when that characterization cannot be further from the truth.
posted by falameufilho at 10:51 AM on October 27, 2011


[shallow] I can't help reading that site like I'm ordering a beer in a crowded bar. "Hey! Can I get an abortion here?" [/shallow]

Carry on.
posted by cereselle at 11:49 AM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


A 2007 interview with the founding doctor of the Women on Waves organization, "a radical Dutch organisation that sails an 'abortion ship' to countries where the procedure is illegal, before taking women out to the safety of international waters to provide terminations"

Previously, the Dutch "abortion ship".
posted by exogenous at 1:10 PM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Forget the misleading "87% of counties" statistic. If you don't think it's harder for millions of women to get abortions in the U.S. than a few years ago and impossible for more women than ever, you are kidding yourself. Access is getting harder, new 'regulations' are shutting more clinics down, and less Medical Insurance plans cover abortion with every new year of 'coverage revisions'. And the Catholic Hospitals are pushing a bill (passed in the House, picking up votes, including 'Moderate Democrats' in the Senate) which will allow them to deny even 'therapeutic' abortions even when it can be demonstrated the mother's life is in danger.

When Liberal activists say "we're losing the Economic Fight but gaining so much in Rights", I see single-issue fools with their heads in the sand.
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:23 PM on October 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sorry, but there's just not enough demand for abortions in large swaths of the US for it to be worth it to doctors to put up with the anxiety of being stalked. I suffered a head injury in Bozeman, Montana some years ago. Before I had an MRI, the attending doctor told me that if they discovered bleeding in the brain, I would have to be flown out of state because no one in the area was qualified to perform that surgery. It wasn't a huge conspiracy against brain surgery; there's simply not enough people who need it in southwest Montana for it to be profitable for the doctor or hospital.
posted by desjardins at 1:37 PM on October 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


What's up with Finland? I'm really surprised to see a fellow Scandinavian country with restrictions...
posted by bouvin at 1:41 PM on October 27, 2011


There's a lot of wiggle room. Strictly speaking, New Zealand is a level II country on the map - abortion only permitted for health reasons. Of course, health extends to mental health, and when preserving mental health entails not having to have a baby if you don't want one, then it's essentially abortion on demand.
posted by Sparx at 2:53 PM on October 27, 2011


« Older "Never in my life did I dance or sing - the obscen...  |  In a daring rejoinder to the k... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments