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Europe's abortion rules

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Availability: On request

Gestational limit: First three months - in practice often before 12 weeks

Conditions: Must have medical consultation. May be performed after 12 weeks if necessary to avoid serious danger to the woman's physical or mental health; if the child is at risk of being born with a serious physical or mental defect; or if the woman is under 14 years of age.

In practice, the ability of a woman to pay for an abortion is an important factor. It is difficult for women to get an abortion outside Vienna and other big cities. Few doctors perform abortions in private practice in rural areas.

Availability: On request

Gestational limit: 12 weeks

Conditions: Woman must say she is in a "state of distress". Abortions allowed at any stage later in pregnancy if two physicians agree there is a serious risk to the health of the mother or that the child has an "extremely serious and incurable disease".

The woman must receive counselling at least six days prior to procedure, which must be performed by a physician under good medical conditions in a healthcare establishment with the proper information resources.

Availability: On request

Gestational limit: 12 weeks

Conditions: Between 12 and 20 weeks, abortion is permitted only if the woman is suffering from a proven, documented case of a disease that could endanger the life of mother or child.
After 20 weeks, abortion is permitted only if the woman's life is in danger or evidence is found of severe foetal impairment.

Availability: Under certain conditions

Gestational limit: 28 weeks

Conditions: Allowed to save a woman's life, to preserve her mental or physical health or in cases of rape or incest and if the child is likely to be born with serious disabilities. The UN says that although not specified by law, in practice abortion is performed within 28 weeks of gestation.

Certification by two doctors is required for all grounds except rape - when certification by a police authority is necessary. Free of charge for patients eligible for free medical care.

Anyone caught performing an unlawful abortion is liable to seven years' imprisonment. A woman inducing her own abortion is liable to the same punishment. In practice, terminations are often carried out for social and economic reasons.

Availability: On request

Gestational limit: 12 weeks

Conditions: Requires consent of the woman and authorisation by her gynaecologist. After 12 weeks, pregnancy can be terminated only if the woman's life or health is endangered or in the case of suspected foetal impairment. The procedure must be authorised by a medical commission and performed in a hospital. Therapeutic abortion is permitted up to 26 weeks.

Women who have had an abortion are not allowed another within six months unless they have had two deliveries, are at least 35 years of age or the pregnancy was the result of a rape.

The number of abortions in the Czech Republic dropped by about two-thirds in the 1990s mainly due to the increasing availability of the birth-control pill and other types of contraception.

Availability: On request

Gestational limit: 12 weeks

Conditions: After 12 weeks, if the pregnancy does not pose a risk to the woman's life or of serious deterioration to her physical or mental health, the abortion must be approved by a committee of four people.

The procedure must be performed by a physician in a state or communal hospital or in a clinic attached to a hospital. No cost, part of the public health system.

Abortion for non-residents is not allowed unless they have some special relationship with Denmark.

FAROE ISLANDS:

Availability: Under certain conditions

Gestational limit: 16 weeks

Conditions: If there is a risk to life of woman, in cases of rape and severe risk of foetal malformation. If married, consent is required from the husband.

Availability: On request

Gestational limit: 12 weeks

Conditions: After 12 weeks, a woman must undergo a consultation with doctors and the reason for the abortion has to be stated in writing.

Abortions are permitted until 22 weeks for health reasons and certain other reasons, including pregnancy at a very young age (under 16) or over 45 years of age. A woman choosing to have an abortion must pay a larger cost of the abortion than she would if it should be performed on medical grounds.

Availability: Under certain conditions

Gestational limit: 24 weeks

Conditions: Abortions permitted up to 12 weeks to save the woman's life, to preserve her mental health, for economic or social reasons or in the cases of rape or incest.
Available up to 20 weeks if there is a risk to the physical health of woman or if she is younger than 17. The procedure can be performed up to 24 weeks if the woman's life is at risk or there is a risk of foetal malformation.

An abortion must be authorised by one or two doctors up to 12 weeks, or by the State Medical Board up to 20 weeks. Abortion is free of charge under national health insurance but women must pay hospital fees.

The International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) says that in practice a woman can get an abortion on demand, but illegal abortion is rare.

Availability: On request

Gestational limit: 12 weeks

Conditions: The woman must claim to be in a "state of distress" because of her pregnancy. After 12 weeks, abortions are allowed only if the pregnancy poses a grave danger to the woman's health or there is a risk the child will suffer from a severe illness recognised as incurable. If this is the case, two doctors must confirm the risk to the health of the woman or foetus.

A pregnant girl under the age of 16 may ask for an abortion without consulting her parents first. But she has to be accompanied by an adult of her choice.
Conscientious objection allows professionals to decline involvement in procedures, but they must inform the patient without delay.

Availability: On request

Gestational limit: 12 weeks

Conditions: The woman must receive proper counselling three days before the procedure. The state-regulated counselling is required to inform the woman that the unborn have a right to life and to try to convince her to continue her pregnancy.

The procedure is not covered by public health insurance except for women with low income. The law includes penalties for people who force a pregnant woman to obtain an abortion or who induce a pregnant woman to have an abortion by maliciously withholding support payments.

Availability: On request

Gestational limit: 12 weeks

Conditions: Abortions are allowed up to 19 weeks in the case of rape or incest and 24 weeks in cases of foetal abnormality.

Abortions must be performed by a practising physician in a private clinic or hospital. A minor must obtain the written consent of her parents or guardian.
The United Nations says the public is still not fully aware of the new laws and illegal abortions are still common.

Availability: On request

Gestational limit: 12 weeks

Conditions: The woman must obtain counselling. A consultation with a nurse is compulsory to inform the pregnant woman on issues of contraception, as well as to provide assistance if the pregnancy is carried to term.

Before 1953 abortions were illegal except for health reasons. The 1992 law stressed respect for the foetus, but it allowed abortions.

If the pregnancy endangers the life of the woman, or the foetus shows malformation that renders any form of postnatal life impossible, the abortion can be performed at any time during pregnancy.

Availability: Strict conditions

Gestational limit: No set limit

Conditions: Only allowed if woman's life is at risk (including the risk of suicide).

Ireland has voted five times in the past 20 years on its abortion laws, most recently deciding to continue to allow women to have an abortion if they say they are suicidal - a loophole the government and Catholic Church wanted closed.

Women can have counselling and advice on options, and can leave the country to have the procedure elsewhere - more than 6,000 a year go to the UK for a termination.

Availability: On request

Gestational limit: 12 weeks

Conditions: A one-week reflection period is imposed unless the situation is one of urgency. A certificate confirming the pregnancy and the request for termination must be issued by a doctor and signed by the woman and the doctor.

Parental authorisation is required if the woman is under 18. After 12 weeks, abortion is allowed only if the foetus has a genetic deficiency or to preserve the physical and mental health of the mother. An abortion must be performed in a public hospital or authorised private facility - if there are staff willing to perform the procedure.

The influence of the Roman Catholic Church - and the threat of excommunication for anyone performing an abortion and any woman obtaining an abortion - means the majority of physicians and other healthcare professionals invoke a conscience clause allowing them to be exempted on moral or religious grounds.

Availability: On request

Gestational limit: 12 weeks

Conditions: After the first three months, special authorisation is required but non-medical reasons can include the death of the husband during pregnancy; imprisonment of the pregnant woman or her husband; divorce during pregnancy; pregnancy following rape; and history of child disability in the family.

The laws were liberalised during the Soviet era. Procedures must be performed in a hospital or other authorised health-care facility.

Availability: On request

Gestational limit: 12 weeks

Conditions: After 12 weeks, special authorisation is required. The laws are similar to Latvia, the countries having been a part of the former Soviet Union. Abortion laws have changed little since independence.

Availability: Under certain conditions

Gestational limit: 12 weeks

Conditions: Allowed during first 12 weeks to save a woman's life, to preserve her mental or physical health, for economic or social reasons in the cases of rape or incest or foetal impairment. A one-week reflection period is required and the pregnant woman must be given an information booklet in which options other than abortion are explained.

After 12 weeks, the law allows abortion only if there is a very serious threat to the health of the woman or the unborn child. Two qualified doctors must confirm in writing that a serious threat exists. A doctor is not required to perform an abortion except when the life of the pregnant woman is in imminent danger.

The UN says there remains a reluctance among doctors to perform abortions, partly because of the country's religious conservatism.

Availability: None

Conditions: Abortion is prohibited in all circumstances. Anyone performing an abortion - or a woman who performs one on herself or consents to the procedure - can be jailed for between 18 months and three years. A physician, surgeon, obstetrician, or pharmacist who performs an abortion faces a jail term of 18 months to four years and a lifelong ban from exercising his or her profession.

The government and bishops on the island objected strongly to moves in 2000 to perform abortions on a ship in international waters off Malta.

Availability: On request

Gestational limit: 13 weeks

Conditions: A five-day waiting period is required between the initial consultation and the performance of an induced abortion. The procedure must be performed in a licensed hospital or clinic. Abortion is allowed after 13 weeks (up to 24 weeks) if she claims to be in a state of distress.

Since November 1984, women in the Netherlands have been able to obtain abortions free of charge under the government-sponsored national health insurance system. Foreigners may have abortions in the Netherlands, but they have to pay.

Availability: Under certain conditions

Gestational limit: 12 weeks

Conditions: Allowed to save a woman's life, to preserve her mental or physical health or in the cases of rape or incest or foetal impairment. The procedure must be performed by an obstetrician or gynaecologist who has passed the national proficiency tests.

After 12 weeks, abortions are allowed only if continued pregnancy would endanger the life or health of the pregnant woman. It must be performed in a hospital or clinic with the consent of the pregnant woman or her parents or guardian if she is a minor.

Availability: Under certain conditions

Gestational limit: 16 weeks

Conditions: Allowed within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy to save a woman's life or to preserve her mental or physical health.

Abortions are allowed within 16 weeks in the cases of rape or another sexual crime and up to 24 weeks if there is a risk that the child will be born with an incurable disease or malformation - which must be certified by a doctor other than the one performing the procedure.

Portugal's laws will now be liberalised to allow abortions on request within the first 10 weeks of pregnancy, after a referendum which saw almost 60% of voters back the move.

It was not legally binding, because less than half the electorate voted, but Prime Minister Jose Socrates said "the people spoke with a clear voice" and the law would be changed.

Availability: On request

Gestational limit: 14 weeks

Conditions: Must be carried out with the woman's consent in an approved medical institution or surgery. Abortions may be performed later in pregnancy if absolutely necessary for therapeutic reasons, according to legal provisions.

A doctor who performs an illegal abortion faces suspension.

Availability: On request

Gestational limit: 12 weeks

Conditions: Woman must request procedure in writing. It is allowed only if at least six months have elapsed since a previous abortion, except in the case of a woman who has had two other births or is 35 years of age or older, or in the case of rape.

A woman must receive counselling before an abortion is performed. Parental consent is required for women under 16 years of age; for minors between 16 and 18 years of age, the physician must inform the parents following the abortion. Abortions after 12 weeks are only allowed for medical and genetic reasons and in cases of rape or other sexual crimes.

Availability: On request

Gestational limit: 10 weeks

Conditions: After the first 10 weeks of pregnancy, special authorisation by a commission composed of a gynaecologist/obstetrician, a general physician or a specialist in internal medicine and a social worker or a psychologist is required.

If the woman is a minor, approval of her parents or guardian is required, unless she has been recognised as fully competent to earn her own living.

Availability: Under certain conditions

Gestational limit: 22 weeks

Conditions: Abortions are allowed to avoid serious risk to physical or mental health of the woman within the first 12 weeks. If the pregnancy is a result of rape, the rape must first be reported to the police and the procedure carried out within 12 weeks of pregnancy.

In case of foetal impairment, two specialists, other than the doctor performing the abortion, must certify that the child would suffer from severe physical or mental defects. The procedure must be performed within the first 22 weeks.
All abortions must be reported to the national health authorities.

Availability: On request

Gestational limit: 18 weeks

Conditions: Between 12 and 18 weeks of gestation, the women must discuss the procedure with a social worker. After 18 weeks, permission must be obtained from the National Board of Health and Welfare.

Abortions must be performed by a licensed medical practitioner and, except in cases of emergency, in a general hospital or other approved healthcare establishment. Abortion is subsidised by the government. The country says illegal abortions have been eradicated.

Availability: Under certain conditions

Gestational limit: 24 weeks

Conditions: Abortion is allowed in England, Wales and Scotland to save a woman's life, for health, economic or social reasons. Two registered medical practitioners must certify that the required medical grounds have been met.

The procedure must be carried out, except in emergency, in a National Health Service hospital or in a nursing home, private hospital or other approved place. The consent of the spouse is not a prerequisite of the medical termination.

In Northern Ireland, the woman's health must be at risk. The difference between the British mainland and Northern Ireland occurred in 1967 when the Westminster parliament let the then Ulster authority decide not to adopt the new laws. Hundreds of women each year cross the Irish Sea to get abortions in England.

Sources: United Nations and the International Planned Parenthood Federation.



SEE ALSO
Q&A: Abortion law
21 May 08 |  UK Politics
Q&A: Late abortions
01 Dec 03 |  Health
Deadly toll of botched abortions
24 Nov 06 |  Health
New call to reduce abortion limit
14 Dec 06 |  UK Politics
Portugal sets abortion vote date
30 Nov 06 |  Europe
Slovak abortion move worries EU
06 Jan 06 |  Europe

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