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Reprod Health Matters. 2010 Nov;18(36):67-89. doi: 10.1016/S0968-8080(10)36521-9.

Second trimester abortion laws globally: actuality, trends and recommendations.

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Harvard School of Public Health, Boston MA, USA.


There are important and compelling reasons why women have second trimester abortions, which constitute a significant percentage of all abortions performed. Laws vary widely around the world on the legality of these abortions. In many cases, they are quite restrictive. Indeed, the later in pregnancy an abortion is sought, the more restrictive the law tends to be. However, many laws say little about second trimester or later abortions. This article reviews the laws of the 191 countries around the world for which information is available and categorizes them by legal indications, which include preservation of the woman's life, health reasons, pregnancy due to sex offences, fetal impairment, socio-economic reasons and on request. Given that there are serious reasons why women have second trimester abortions, and that the laws in many countries do not make these abortions legally available, this paper makes recommendations on how laws and regulations can be changed in order better to respond to women's needs. While most countries may not decriminalise all abortions in the near future, especially second trimester abortions, less comprehensive legislative and regulatory reforms are possible. These include recommendations aimed at ensuring that abortions are carried out safely and as early as possible in pregnancy, and improving access to safe abortions by removing unnecessary legal and regulatory restrictions.

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