On Tuesday, Alabama passed the most restrictive abortion bill in the United States, which banned abortions in all cases except when it was “necessary in order to prevent a serious health risk” to women.
The “Human Life Protection Act” provided no exceptions for rape or incest, reclassifying abortion as a Class A felony punishable by up to 99 years in prison for doctors performing it. However, the bill did not hold the woman having the abortion as criminally liable. The law will take effect six months after it is signed by Gov. Kay Ivey.
The bill, when compared to some of the harshest anti-abortion laws across the globe, seemed lenient.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports abortion rights, 26 countries in the world still have a blanket ban on abortion, with no explicit legal reasons for exceptions. This meant women living in those nations are forbidden from legally terminating their pregnancies even if it was the result of rape or incest, regardless of the consequences to their own health.
The regions which have the strictest abortion laws include Angola, Congo-Brazzaville, Congo-Kinshasa, Egypt, Gabon, Guinea-Bissau, Madagascar, Mauritania, São Tomé & Príncipe, and Senegal in Africa; Iraq, Laos, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Palau, Philippines, Tonga, in Asia and Oceania; Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Suriname in Latin America and the Caribbean. Among the developed nations, Andorra, Malta and San Marino continue to implement the harshest laws against abortion.
Here is a detailed look at the anti-abortion laws in some of those countries:
El Salvador: According to a World Economic Forum report, “authorities can prosecute women whose pregnancies end before 40 weeks, even if by miscarriage or stillbirth, if they are suspected of harming their fetus. Prison sentences range from two to eight years, though some women have been convicted on charges of aggravated homicide and sentenced for up to 30 years.” At least 129 women were prosecuted under El Salvador’s stringent anti-abortion laws between 2000 and 2011, according to the pressure group Citizens for the Decriminalization of Abortion.
A bill, introduced by the left-wing party Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front in 2016, to end the draconian anti-abortion laws in the country and to allow abortions in cases of rape when the woman is a minor or a victim of human trafficking, when the fetus is unviable, or to protect a woman’s health or life, was not brought to a vote in 2018, despite growing pressure from international organizations like the United Nations, calling for revision of the strict laws.
Malta: Malta does not allow abortion for any reason, including rape, incest, socioeconomic grounds, fetal malformations, harm to a woman’s mental and physical health or her life itself. With more than 90 percent of the population in the country either members or believers of the Catholic Church, the practice is considered to be “gravely contrary to the moral law.” Jail terms between 18 months and three years can be imposed if the law is broken.
“Abortion has always been banned and, as much as we’ve moved on in social and sexual rights, including the introduction of gay marriage, we haven’t started discussing abortion,” Herman Grech, online editor at the Times of Malta, told US News, adding the majority of the people viewed abortion as murder.
Egypt: Article 262 of the Egyptian Penal Code reads, “A woman who willingly and knowingly takes medication or willingly uses… means, or enables another party to use such means, thereby inducing a miscarriage shall be subject to… penalty (imprisonment)” which can range from six months to three years in prison. On the other hand, a doctor who performed the abortion could face three to 15 years in prison.
In 2017, a number of non-profit organizations in the country such as the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) and Realizing Sexual and Reproductive Justice (RESURJ), started urging the country’s government to ratify the African Charter’s Protocol on the Rights of Women, also known as the Maputo Protocol, as a means to decriminalize safe abortion. Egypt has yet to sign or ratify the protocol.