Medico-legal aspects of abortion in Europe

Eur J Contracept Reprod Health Care. 2002 Mar;7(1):15-9.


Objective: The practice of abortion in a particular country reflects culture, economic status, religion and the law. Various aspects of abortion in Europe - laws, rates and practices - are presented.

Results: Abortion is completely prohibited in Ireland and Malta. In Poland it is permitted only to save the woman's life or protect her physical health. On the grounds of protecting the woman's mental health it is also permitted in Northern Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Switzerland. On socioeconomic grounds abortion is permitted in Finland, Great Britain and Hungary. In the other European countries it is permitted on demand. Eastern Europe has the highest abortion rate (Romania 78/1000 women aged 15-44), and Western Europe has the lowest (The Netherlands 6.5/1000); the disparity may be attributable to differences in availability and use of effective contraceptives. Within the first 12 weeks of gestation, vacuum aspiration has replaced dilatation and curettage, as the most commonly used method to perform abortion. More recently, medical abortion (mifepristone with prostaglandins) in early pregnancy has been used in several European countries.

Conclusions: Reduction of the need for induced abortion and prevention of unsafe abortion through the provision of appropriate legislation and good family planning services should be an integral part of health care in every country.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Legal / adverse effects
  • Abortion, Legal / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Abortion, Legal / methods
  • Abortion, Legal / psychology
  • Abortion, Legal / statistics & numerical data*
  • Contraception / statistics & numerical data
  • Europe
  • Family Planning Services / organization & administration
  • Female
  • Gestational Age
  • Health Services Accessibility / organization & administration
  • Humans
  • Informed Consent / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Maternal Welfare / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Mental Health
  • Needs Assessment
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Women's Health