NI: Global Issues for Learners of English > The Issues > Abortion > Restrictions on Abortion


logoRestrictions on Abortion

A look at some countries where abortion is illegal or difficult to obtain.

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Two Shocking Stories

The Republic of Ireland

'Miss X' was a fourteen year-old girl who lived in the Republic of Ireland. In 1992, She was raped by her school-friend's father and became pregnant. The Irish constitution forbids abortion, but every year thousands of Irish women go to England, where abortions became legal in 1967.

Miss X pleaded with her parents to take her to London for an abortion and they agreed. Because of the trial of the school-friend's father, the family told the Irish police what they were going to do.

The result was a terrible legal argument in Ireland. Miss X's life was a nightmare. The police telephoned her family in London and said that they must return home without having the abortion. The girl said she would kill herself.

The Irish public - and many other people around the world - watched in horror as the lawyers continued to argue about the Irish constitution and rights of a child who had been raped. After several weeks, Miss X was finally allowed to leave Ireland again so that she could end her pregnancy.




RAPED: forced to have sex when you don't want to

PREGNANT (adj): if a woman is pregnant, a new child is growing inside her.

CONSTITUTION: the rules and principles that are the basis for a country's law and government

FORBIDS: does not allow

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A similar story in Brazil has a different ending. M was an eleven-year-old girl who was raped and became pregnant. At first M tried to hide her pregnancy, but her father found out. He requested an abortion, which was legal in this case because of the rape and because it is dangerous for a young girl to give birth.

However, M's situation became national news. Anti-abortionists marched to the town where M lived and held noisy protests. They shouted out that the Pope (the head of the Roman Catholic church) had said abortion is 'an abominable crime'. The anti-abortionists persuaded M's father that M's life would not be in danger if she completed her pregnancy.



ANTI-ABORTIONISTS: people who want to stop abortions

ABOMINABLE: very, very bad

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Campaigns against abortion are dangerous for women.


Anti-abortion campaigners are active all over Brazil. One result is that many state-funded hospitals refuse to give women abortions, even when those abortions would be legal. Therefore, women have illegal abortions: and these illegal abortion cause 20% of the deaths of young women in Brazil.



CAMPAIGNERS: people who try to change a law, often in a very public way

STATE-FUNDED: paid for by the government


The United States is another country with a fanatical anti-abortion movement. This can make it difficult for women to have safe abortions. A woman's right to have an early abortion is protected by the constitution of the United States. However, individual states can introduce additional laws. Therefore anti-abortionists campaign for new state laws that will make it more difficult for women to get safe abortions. Now, in many individual states there are laws that restrict access to abortions for teenage girls. The result is that young girls who succeed in getting abortions have them later in pregnancy, when the risks are greater.


FANATICAL: if you are fanatical about something, your belief is stronger than logic or reason

RESTRICT ACCESS: make it difficult for people to get something

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Laws against abortion do not work.

Having an abortion is not an experience that women want. Women who have abortions would prefer that they had never become pregnant. However, these women feel very strongly (for many different reasons) that they do not want to continue their pregnancy.

When women have an abortion, they know that they are stopping a new life. But many decide to do this because they also know that, if the pregnancy continues, they cannot meet other responsibilities: responsibilities to the child who would be born; responsibilities to their other children; even responsibilities to themselves.

Therefore, many women will try to have an abortion, even if it is not legal or safe. Making abortions illegal does not stop them. Laws against abortion only make abortion painful and dangerous.



RESPONSIBILITIES: duties; things you must take care of

FOETUS: unborn child


The Philippines

In the Philippines abortion is a crime and a foetus is protected by the country's constitution. However, it is estimated that 17% of women in Manila (the capital city of the Philippines) have had an abortion. Medical problems that result from abortions are the most common reason for women to go into hospital.

Now opponents of abortion have introduced a new bill. If it becomes law, abortion will be the same kind of crime as rape or murder. People who perform abortions and women who have abortions could be sentenced to death.



When Poland was a communist country, it had very liberal abortion laws. When communist rule ended in 1990, the situation changed. There were large public demonstrations, both in favour of abortion and against it. The Roman Catholic church played an active role in the campaign against abortion: local priests said that they would refuse to give religious sacraments to people who did not sign petitions against abortion.

Now, in Poland most abortions are crimes. Only 3% of the abortions that were allowed before 1990 are still legal today. However, this has not stopped abortions. A few months after abortion became a crime there were signs that women could still find ways to end unwanted pregnancies.


LIBERAL ABORTION LAWS: it was easy to get an abortion.

SACRAMENTS ceremonies that are very important

Women who had enough money travelled to Russia, Germany or Holland for abortions. Women with less money tried to find other answers. Some women had illegal abortions in Poland. Police began to receive bodies of women who had died from abortions that went wrong. The number of women who reported 'miscarriages' increased. People began to find the bodies of newborn babies in fields and woods.

MISCARRIAGE: when a foetus 'dies' for natural reasons

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Lack of medical care is another problem


Even where abortion is legal, there can be other problems that prevent women from having safe and affordable abortions. In India, for example, abortion has been legal since 1971. However, there are more illegal abortions than legal ones. Why? Because there are not enough doctors or medical facilities.



MEDICAL FACILITIES: places where people can get medical care

The material on this page has been adapted from a longer article, "A moral question," by Janet Hadley in the July 1998 New Internationalist.

Copyright New Internationalist Magazine 1998

NI: Global Issues for Learners of English > The Issues > Abortion > Restrictions on Abortion


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Last Modified: 20 July 1999

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