After Mexico, what are the hotspots for abortion rights in 2021?

by Christine Murray and Sonia Elks | @chrissiemurray | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Wednesday, 8 September 2021 15:00 GMT

Women hang a banner which reads "Abortion in Coahuila is no longer a crime" during a protest to celebrate the decision of the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN) that declared the criminalization of abortion as unconstitutional, in Saltillo, Mexico September 7, 2021. REUTERS/Daniel Becerril

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In a turbulent year for abortion rights worldwide, which countries are making changes?

By Christine Murray and Sonia Elks

Sept 8 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Mexico's top court has ruled that women can no longer be prosecuted for seeking abortions in a seismic victory for women's rights in the majority-Catholic nation.

The decision in the world's second-biggest Roman Catholic country comes during a turbulent year for abortion rights globally, as parts of the United States enact tougher laws against the practice.

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

United States

A new law barring abortions from six weeks - often before a woman even realises she is pregnant - has gone into effect in Texas, one of a series of restrictions passed at the state level.

Some lawmakers are making moves to overturn a landmark 1970s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.

The court has a 6-3 conservative majority after former President Donald Trump made three appointments during his four-year term, including Justice Amy Coney Barrett, a vocal supporter of abortion restrictions.


Argentina became the first major country in Latin America to legalize abortion in January, bucking opposition from the influential Catholic Church to allow terminations up to the 14th week of pregnancy.

The change has raised hopes of further reform in the region as Latin American women's rights groups push to loosen restrictions.


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

The verdict restricting access to abortion went into effect in January, three months after it sparked nationwide protests.

Under the ruling, abortions are now only permitted in cases of rape and incest, and when the mother's life or health is endangered, pushing Poland further from the European mainstream.


A demonstrator holds a placard during a protest against the verdict restricting abortion rights in Warsaw, Poland, January 28, 2021. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

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 voted on and implemented.


Last 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.

Draft legislation outlining similar proposals has now been tabled by a group of lawmakers from the biggest ruling party, Ordinary People (OLANO). It is expected to be debated in the new parliamentary session starting next week.


Thailand's Constitutional Court ruled in February 2021 that existing laws criminalizing abortion were unconstitutional.

Thai lawmakers in January voted in favour of allowing abortion up to 12 weeks of pregnancy while retaining penalties for later terminations. Pro-choice activists said the move fell short of protecting the rights of the mother.

Under the amendment, an abortion after 12 weeks would be allowed only in certain conditions and would otherwise be punishable by up to six months in prison, or a fine of up to 10,000 baht ($334) or both.


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.

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.

Related stories:

U.S. states making 2021 moves on abortion rights and access 

Women struggle to access abortion as pandemic adds to hurdles in Europe

Lawmaker urges Malta to stop criminalising women who seek abortions

FACTBOX - Abortion rights in Europe

This article was updated on Wednesday, 8 Sept 2021 to include news of Mexico's ruling to decriminalise abortion and latest details in other countries.      

(Reporting by Christine Murray; Additional reporting by Rina Chandran; Editing by Belinda Goldsmith Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit

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