🇪🇺Abortion law: Where is Europe heading?
The story of abortion rights in Europe can be seen in two opposing developments this year.
In Poland, as of 27 January 2021, abortion is legal only when the continuation of pregnancy endangers the woman's life or health or when the pregnancy results from a criminal act.
In San Marino, on 26 September 2021, a referendum legalised abortion for women until the twelfth week of pregnancy.
In which direction is Europe heading? The answer is clear: Poland stands out. Since 2000, from a global perspective, only three countries have rolled back (in addition to Poland, the USA and Nicaragua); however, 31 countries have extended access to abortion.
In Europe, besides the large state of Poland, the exceptions are the micro-states of Vatican City, Liechtenstein and Andorra plus the mini-state of Malta - the only EU country that bans abortion in all cases and does not have an exception for situations where the woman's life is in danger; the law, however, is not strictly enforced. All the remaining states make abortion legal on request or for social and economic reasons during the first trimester.
Changes have been drawn over decades. Abortion in Italy was legalised in 1978; in Ireland, the law changed only after a referendum in 2018; and abortion in Northern Ireland was decriminalised only in 2019.
Today 95 per cent of European women of reproductive age live in countries that allow abortion on demand or for broad socioeconomic reasons.
This is very different to the rest of the world: 42 per cent of all women of reproductive age live in (125) countries where abortion is highly restricted, which means prohibited altogether or allowed only to save a woman's life or protect her health.
By the way, regardless of how you feel about abortion (from outright prohibition to allowing abortion without restriction), the missing effectiveness of strict laws speaks for itself. The Guttmacher Insitute (that works to study, educate, and advance sexual and reproductive health and rights) has found out: "In analyses that exclude China and India, whose large populations skew the data, the abortion rate is actually higher in countries that restrict abortion access than in those that do not."