242 Abor tion
Access to safe abortion
When a woman is faced with an unwanted pregnancy, she
should be able to get a safe and legal abortion. But laws about
abortion differ from one country to another.
Legal abortion. If abortion is legal a woman can walk into a health
center or hospital, pay a fee, and have a safe abortion. In countries
where this happens, almost no women get sick or die from
complications of abortion.
Legal abortion in some cases. In some countries an abortion is
only legal for certain reasons, such as:
• if a woman becomes pregnant from rape or incest (sex with a
close family member).
➤ Even if abortion is
illegal, a woman can
usually get medical
help for complications
after an abortion. It
is often difficult to
tell the difference
between abortion and
something from the
abortion has been left
in the womb.
• if a doctor says pregnancy would be a danger to a woman’s
But abortion is often difficult to get, even for those reasons.
Doctors and health workers may not be sure what the law really
says. They may be unwilling to do abortions openly, or they may
charge a lot of money. Women may not know if abortion is legal
or available in their country.
Illegal abortion. If abortion is not legal, both the women who
get abortions and those who perform them can be arrested.
In most places this does not happen. But where abortion is
against the law, more women die from unsafe abortion and
unsafe pregnancies. Money that could be spent on women’s
health services is spent instead on treating complications of
If you don’t
Never assume abortion is illegal. Try to find out about the laws
in your own country. It may be easier to work around the laws
than to try and change them. Even if abortion is illegal,
there may be people providing safe abortions. Finding a
safe abortion may mean the difference between staying
alive and dying.
Other barriers to finding a safe abortion
Legal or not, it can be hard to get a safe abortion
because it is too costly, too far away, or because there
are confusing rules, or papers to fill out.
These reasons often make it especially difficult for
women who are poor, or who are not familiar with the
medical system, to get safe abortions. Unfortunately,
in many places, the only women who can easily get
a safe abortion are women who can afford to pay a
Where Women Have No Doctor 2012