Abortion-rights movements

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Abortion-rights movements advocate for legal access to induced abortion services. The issue of induced abortion remains divisive in public life, with recurring arguments to liberalize or to restrict access to legal abortion services. Abortion-rights supporters themselves are frequently divided as to the types of abortion services that should be available and to the circumstances, for example different periods in the pregnancy such as late term abortions, in which access may be restricted.

Abortion-rights activists in Sao Paulo, Brazil.


Many of the terms used in the debate are seen as political framing: terms used to validate one's own stance while invalidating the opposition's. For example, the labels "pro-choice" and "pro-life" imply endorsement of widely held values such as liberty and freedom, while suggesting that the opposition must be "anti-choice" or "anti-life" (alternatively "pro-coercion" or "pro-death").[1] These views do not always fall along a binary; in one Public Religion Research Institute poll, seven in ten Americans described themselves as "pro-choice" while almost two-thirds described themselves as "pro-life."[2] The Associated Press favors the more neutral terms "abortion rights" and "anti-abortion" instead.[3]

United States[edit]

Abortion-rights advocacy in the United States is centered in the United States pro-choice movement.

International status of abortion law

UN 2013 report on abortion law.[4]

  Legal on request
  Legal for maternal life, health, mental health, rape, fetal defects, and/or socioeconomic factors
  Illegal with exception for maternal life, health, mental health, rape, and/or fetal defects
  Illegal with exception for maternal life, health, mental health, and/or rape
  Illegal with exception for maternal life, health, and/or mental health
  Illegal with no exceptions
  No information[5][dated info]


South Africa allows abortion on demand under its Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act. Most African nations, however, have abortion bans except in cases where the woman's life or health is at risk. A number of abortion-rights international organizations have made altering abortion laws and expanding family planning services in sub-Saharan Africa and the developing world a top priority.


Most European countries have legalized abortion (in at least some cases) through certain laws (United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Netherlands, etc.). Russia legalized the procedure in 1955.[6]


Abortion is illegal in the Republic of Ireland except when the woman's life is threatened by a medical condition or a suicide risk, since a 1983 referendum amended the constitution. Subsequent amendments – the thirteenth and fourteenth – guaranteed the right to travel abroad (for abortions) and to distribute and obtain information of "services" not available in the country, such as abortion, which are lawful in other countries. A proposal to remove suicide risk as a ground for abortion was struck down in a 2002 referendum. Thousands of women get around the ban by privately traveling to the other European countries (typically Britain and the Netherlands) to undergo terminations.[7]

The Labour Party, Communist Party, Socialist Party and Irish Republican Socialist Party are in favor of liberalizing the laws. For many other parties (such as the Green Party), it is a 'matter of conscience' and they have no official line on the issue.[8]

Abortion is also illegal in Northern Ireland, except in cases when the woman is threatened by a medical condition, physical or mental.[9][10]


Main article: Abortion in Poland

Abortion is illegal in Poland unless the pregnancy endangers the life of the mother, the pregnancy was the result of a criminal act or the fetus is seriously malformed.[11] Abortion was legalized by the Soviet Union throughout its rule of Poland, but this policy was abandoned after the collapse of the USSR.

United Kingdom[edit]

In the United Kingdom, the Abortion Act 1967 legalized abortion, except in Northern Ireland. In Great Britain, the law states that pregnancy may be terminated up to 24 weeks[12] if it:

  1. puts the life of the pregnant woman at risk
  2. poses a risk to the mental and physical health of the pregnant woman
  3. poses a risk to the mental and physical health of the fetus
  4. shows there is evidence of extreme fetal abnormality i.e. the child would be seriously physically or mentally handicapped after birth and during life.[13]

However, the criterion of risk to mental and physical health is applied broadly, and de facto makes abortion available on demand,[14] though this still requires the consent of two National Health Service doctors. Abortions in Great Britain are provided at no out-of-pocket cost to the patient by the NHS.

The Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats are predominantly pro-abortion-rights parties, though with significant minorities in each either holding more restrictive definitions of the right to choose, or subscribing to an anti-abortion analysis. The Conservative Party is more evenly split between both camps and its leader, David Cameron, supports abortion on demand in the early stages of pregnancy.[15]



Main article: Abortion in Iran

Abortion was first legalized in 1978.[16] In April 2005, the Iranian Parliament approved a new bill easing the conditions by also allowing abortion in certain cases when the fetus shows signs of handicap,[17][18][19] and the Council of Guardians accepted the bill in 15/June/2005.[18] Legal abortion is now allowed if the mother's life is in danger, and also in cases of fetal abnormalities that makes it not viable after birth (such as anencephaly) or produce difficulties for mother to take care of it after birth, such as major thalassemia or bilateral polycystic kidney disease.


Main article: Abortion in Japan

Chapter XXIX of the Penal Code of Japan makes abortion illegal in Japan. Meanwhile, the Maternal Health Protection Law allows approved doctors to practice abortion with the consent of the mother and her spouse, if the pregnancy has resulted from rape, or if the continuation of the pregnancy may severely endanger the maternal health because of physical reasons or economic reasons. Any other persons, including the mother herself, trying to abort the fetus will be punished by the law. Anyone trying to practice abortion without the consent of the woman will also be punished, including the doctors.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Holstein and Gubrium (2008). Handbook of Constructionist Research. Guilford Press. 
  2. ^ "Committed to Availability, Conflicted about Morality: What the Millennial Generation Tells Us about the Future of the Abortion Debate and the Culture Wars". Public Religion Research Institute. June 9, 2011. 
  3. ^ Goldstein, Norm, ed. The Associated Press Stylebook. Philadelphia: Basic Books, 2007.
  4. ^ "World Abortion Policies 2013". United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division. Retrieved 31 July 2013. 
  5. ^ World Abortion Policies 2007, United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division.
  6. ^ Greenall, Robert (2003-09-16). "Russia turns spotlight on abortion". BBC News Online (BBC News). Retrieved 2006-07-07. 
  7. ^ BBC News – Irish teen wins abortion battle
  8. ^ Choice Ireland – Irish political parties: Where do they stand?
  9. ^ Rex v Bourne [1939] 1 KB 687, [1938] 3 All ER 615, CCA
  10. ^ "Q&A: Abortion in Northern Ireland". BBC News. June 13, 2001. Retrieved December 9, 2011. 
  11. ^ "Rozporządzenie Prezydenta Rzeczypospolitej". Wayback Machine. Retrieved December 9, 2011. 
  12. ^ "MPs reject cut in abortion limit". BBC News. 2008-05-21. Retrieved 2010-05-22. 
  13. ^ Official text of the Abortion Act 1967 as in force today (including any amendments) within the United Kingdom, from the UK Statute Law Database .
  14. ^ R v British Broadcasting Corporation, ex parte ProLife Alliance [2002] EWCA Civ 297 at [6], [2002] 2 All ER 756 at 761, CA
  15. ^ David Cameron supports abortion on demand, Catholic Herald, 20 June 2008.
  16. ^ Eliz Sanasarian, The Women's Rights Movements in Iran, Praeger, New York: 1982, ISBN 0-03-059632-7.
  17. ^ Harrison, Frances. (April 12, 2005). "Iran liberalises laws on abortion." BBC News. Retrieved May 12, 2006.
  18. ^ a b "Iran Rejects Easing of Abortion Law." (May 9, 2005). LifeSiteNews.com. Retrieved May 12, 2006.
  19. ^ "Iran's Parliament eases abortion law." (April 13, 2005).The Daily Star. Retrieved May 12, 2006.

External links[edit]