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Abortion seekers can face prison time in more than 120 countries: global study

In more than 120 countries, people who seek abortions are at risk of facing prison time, according to a new review published Monday.

BMJ Global Health, a peer-reviewed journal, conducted the study which they called a “comprehensive global analysis” of the penalization of abortion.

The study found that over 90 countries have maximum penalties of five years in prison for abortion-seekers, while 25 have sentences of between five and 10 years. In six countries, abortion seekers can even face life in prison. This list includes Kiribati, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Barbados, Belize and Jamaica.

The analysis also noted that, while most countries allow for some form of abortion, 11 countries have outlawed it absolutely: Andorra, the Congo, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, Madagascar, Malta, Nicaragua, Palau, the Philippines and Suriname.

The research relied on detailed abortion policies collected by the World Health Organization, whose guidelines call for the decriminalization of abortion and the removal of barriers to obtaining safe abortions across the world.

“When [abortion] is regulated through the criminal law, there are consequences, which can include compounding the stigma associated with seeking or providing abortion care, creating a chilling effect,” said co-author Antonella Lavelanet, who serves as a medical officer with the WHO’s Department of Sexual and Reproductive Health Services and Research.

The WHO database used in the study doesn’t follow a uniform definition of abortion, but the practice is typically considered as the termination of a pregnancy prior to fetal viability, which occurs around 24 weeks.

The analysis was made up of 182 countries and their policies as of October 2022.

However, the United States was omitted from the study because the law differs from state to state since the constitutional right to abortion was overturned by the Supreme Court last June. Some U.S. states, including Mississippi, Alabama and West Virginia, enforce prison time for those who provide illegal abortions, according to FindLaw.com.

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