The legal state of abortion worldwide in 2021

Attitudes towards the ever contentious pro-choice/pro-birth debate have shifted varyingly over the last 25 years across the globe. In 2021, here’s where different regions currently stand on the legality.

A week after Argentina secured a huge milestone for pro-choice campaigners by becoming the largest Latin American country – and only the third one in the region – to legalise abortion, consumer data mogul Statista has released a definitive record which displays the legal status of the issue throughout every nation, and in real time.

Infographic: The Legal Status Of Abortion Worldwide | Statista

Derived from analytics courtesy of the Centre for Reproductive Rights, the original map has become a key resource for advocates, government officials, and civil society organisations working to advance reproductive rights across the globe.

Categorised from complete prohibition (dark red), to legal on ‘broad social or economic grounds’ (green), this map provides a single place to understand the full scope of the pro-choice/pro-birth debate and shows which umbrella different countries fall under in early 2021.

What the last 25 years has shown us is that monumental gains have been made in securing women’s rights to abortion, with nearly 50 countries making complete U-turns to liberalise anti-abortion reform.

Admittedly, in large portions of South America and Africa particularly, the recent permissions of abortion are only authorised on the grounds of protecting a woman’s mental or physical health. Within these regions there remains no system for gestational limits or economic considerations – unlike most of Europe and the US. Now in 2021, as many as 56 countries including 14% of women are governed by this ruling.

Back on the topic of Europe, a recent sample of 17,000 adults taken from a survey of 25 countries in summer 2020, revealed a prevailing attitude that abortions should not be permitted on the continent, while Latin American and Asian countries were highly in favour of complete reproductive freedom.

Surprisingly, this study showed that although pro-choice support had been growing steadily over a number of years in the UK, it fell back to the levels of 2014 in this particular poll.

Several experts have attributed the drop in support to the pandemic, alluding that previous advocates may have changed their attitude to see clinics close, and not to take up essential care workers that could be utilised elsewhere.

The biggest turn around in terms of desire to legalise abortions could be seen in South Korea, with a 20% increase now in favour, compared to 2014. In fact, its government is said to be currently weighing up a new change to legislation that may see legal terminations available up to the 14th week of pregnancy for 2021.

Around the world, support for legal abortions on the whole varied between 48% and 88% with the exception of Malaysia, where as little as 24% were in agreement.

If you’re interested in delving into the debate on a country by country basis, and picking out the nuances of each nation’s current reform, you can simply click on the interactive map to be directed to snippets of accessible information.

Make sure to keep an eye on it throughout 2021. As we’ve highlighted already, this debate is constantly shifting.

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