47 Out of 50 European Nations Have Stronger Abortion Limits Than America

National   |   Mallory Quigley   |   Jul 27, 2021   |   2:48PM   |   Washington, DC

A comprehensive analysis of European abortion laws shows the overwhelming majority of European nations limit elective abortion prior to 15 weeks gestation. This fall, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, concerning the constitutionality of limits on abortion prior to viability. The case was prompted by a Mississippi law that protects the life of the unborn starting at 15 weeks gestation.

“Mississippi’s law brings the United States a small step closer both to European and global norms,” said Angelina B. Nguyen, J.D., author of the study and an associate scholar at Charlotte Lozier Institute.  “No European nation allows elective abortion through all nine months of pregnancy, as is effectively permitted in several U.S. states, and America is one of only a small handful of nations, along with China and North Korea, to permit any sort of late-term elective abortion.

The new analysis, entitled “Mississippi’s 15-Week Gestational Limit on Abortion is Mainstream Compared to European Laws,” compares gestational limits in Mississippi’s Gestational Age Act with gestational limits in the abortion laws of the European community.  The sample group for the study includes a total of 50 European countries, independent states, and semi-autonomous regions with populations exceeding one million. Abortion policies of the United Kingdom were addressed separately, as Northern Ireland’s abortion law differs from Great Britain’s.

Key findings include:

  • 47 out of 50 European nations limit elective abortion prior to 15 weeks.
    • 14-week limit: Five countries limit elective abortion to 14 weeks, including Germany and Belgium.
    • 12-week limit: A majority of European countries (27) limit elective abortion to 12 weeks, including Denmark, France, and Norway.
    • Requires a reason for abortion: Eight countries, including Great Britain and Finland, do not allow elective abortion, though some permit abortion for specific medical or socioeconomic reasons.
  • Zero out of 50 U.S. states have currently enforceable limits on abortion at 15 weeks.
  • No European nation allows elective abortion through all 9 months of pregnancy, as is effectively permitted in several U.S. states, including California, Massachusetts, Maryland, and New York.

The new analysis builds on a 2014 Charlotte Lozier Institute analysis of abortion laws worldwide, which found the United States among a small handful of nations, including China and North Korea, allowing elective abortion more than halfway through pregnancy, or after 20 weeks.

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CLI President Charles A. “Chuck” Donovan said:

“American elites often hold up Europe as an example.  First we demonstrated that more than two-thirds of the planet goes further than America in protecting life. Now, we’ve demonstrated that almost every European nation goes further than America in protecting life. Mississippi’s commonsense limits on late-term abortion are well within the mainstream of American popular opinion and clearly within the mainstream of European political opinion.

“The European comparison is useful in highlighting how Roe v. Wade and the abortion industry are outdated and out of touch, but our goal isn’t achieving some international happy medium. Along with legislators in Mississippi, Charlotte Lozier Institute is committed to using science to demonstrate the reality that human life exists in the womb and that the right to life is an unalienable human right.”

Mississippi’s Gestational Age Act, which passed overwhelmingly with bipartisan support in 2018, limits elective abortion to 15 weeks. The law was invalidated by lower courts (Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization) and will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in the fall of 2021.