Global Abortion Laws, Split on a Clear North-South Divide

4 min readJul 17, 2019

by Barbara Crossette. This article originally appeared on PassBlue.

The most liberal laws on abortion are found in the richest industrial countries. Does that matter? Advocates for reproductive health care say yes, because the abortion gap is often a bellwether indicating that health care for women in many developing countries offers few or no reproductive choices or respect for reproductive rights.

The lives of women are falling into separate camps internationally: those who live in the wealthiest industrial nations, with progressive laws on abortion, and those in developing countries, where nonprofit health clinics are closing and women have fewer choices. In Nepal, above.

The issue has become more urgent as the United States, under the Trump administration, pursues its anti-abortion crusade on a global scale, tightening restrictions on nongovernmental organizations dealing with all aspects of women’s health and well-being.

The gap in women’s health and rights between the global North and South can widen further under the US global gag rule, reimposed by President Trump, which forbids even counseling on abortion at the risk of an NGO losing American funding. Family planning services also get cut, burdening women and girls more so. That leads them, in many cases, to unsafe abortions.

The lives of women fall into separate international worlds. In developing nations, NGO clinics are closing, depriving women of comprehensive health care and giving license to misogynist or repressive forces in communities where women without resources have no alternatives to NGO care, according to a recent report from the International Women’s Health Coalition.

“The policy is creating new opportunities for groups that oppose sexual and reproductive rights and women’s rights to expand their influence,” the coalition says in “Crisis In Care: Year Two Impact of Trump’s Global Gag Rule,” surveying four nations: Kenya, Nepal, Nigeria and South Africa. “It also provides individuals with regressive views an excuse to block progress on these matters within their professional capacities,” the report found. “Foreign governments have remained largely silent about the consequences of the policy on the health of their own people.”

In South Africa, NGOs that once provided good reproductive health, sound legal advice and referrals to safe and legal abortion services have been forced to curtail their activities. The deteriorating situation is recognized by government health workers. In a country with…


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