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From Poland to South Korea: 9 abortion rights hotspots in 2021

by Christine Murray and Rina Chandran | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Thursday, 31 December 2020 07:00 GMT

People in favour of a bill to legalise abortion react after the result of the voting outside the National Congress in Buenos Aires, Argentina December 11, 2020. REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian

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By Christine Murray and Rina Chandran

Dec 31 - The coronavirus pandemic has impacted abortions around the world, with lockdowns complicating access in some places, while other countries made it easier to get at-home medical abortions.

But despite stay-at-home orders, the world's legislatures, courts and politicians have continued to make key decisions to expand or roll back rights.

In October, 33 countries including the United States, Egypt and Brazil, signed a declaration that critics say was aimed at restricting access to abortion.

Here are some of the hotspots for abortion rights in 2021:

  1. Poland

An October court ruling in staunchly-Catholic Poland banned abortions in most circumstances and led to huge protests. Calls to an abortion support hotline in the country have increased more than five-fold since the ruling.

The decision is yet to be published in detail, delaying its implementation, with discussions reportedly ongoing as of November.


  1. Argentina

Argentina's lower house of Congress in December passed a bill to allow abortion up to 14 weeks. Currently, women are only allowed to abort in cases of rape or serious risk to the mother.

The Catholic country's Senate - which narrowly voted against legalization in 2018 - was due to debate the legislation at the end of December.

  1. South Korea

A 2019 constitutional court ruling struck down a decades-long ban on abortion. That forced the government to propose new legislation in October that would allow abortion up to 14 weeks  and in some cases up to 24 weeks.

The proposal has yet to be vote on and implemented.

  1. United States

Outgoing President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett - a devout Catholic favored by conservatives - was confirmed in October. Rights advocates worry her appointment could tip the bench towards overturning a landmark 1973 ruling that said women had a right to abortion.

A case involving access to medical abortion drugs is currently before the court.

  1. Slovakia

In October, the country's parliament narrowly rejected a bill that would have made it harder to get an abortion. But at least one lawmaker reportedly said she will try again in six months.


  1. Thailand

Thailand's Constitutional Court ruled in February that existing laws criminalizing abortion were unconstitutional. The Thai cabinet in November approved a legal amendment to allow abortion up to 12 weeks into a pregnancy.

Parliament is expected to vote on the changes in early 2021.


  1. Mexico

Legalization proposals have been presented in several state Congress including in Michoacan and Chiapas, with rights activists hoping they will follow Mexico City and Oaxaca and allow abortion up to 12 weeks.

Amnesty requests under a new law for women imprisoned for abortion have not yet been granted. Large protests over abortion and other women's rights issues are expected to continue

  1. Philippines

In the Philippines - where abortion is illegal and carries a jail term of up to six years - women's rights groups have drafted a bill to decriminalize abortion, and are looking for a lawmaker to sponsor it.

Past decriminalization efforts have been opposed by the powerful Catholic church.


  1. El Salvador

The Central American country, which has a strict outright ban on abortion - even in cases of rape - will likely continue to face pressure from international organizations.

In 2020, a United Nations expert group said three women put in prison under the law were detained unfairly. More than a dozen women have been jailed for abortion-related crimes.



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