Europe is now considering a ban on abortion, but other countries such as Canada and the UK have seen similar bans overturned. It’s not only about stopping abortions that are unsafe; it’s also about controlling women. The more people debate this issue, the harder to understand what exactly Europe wants from its own policy making process.

The “abortion in europe” is a lesson that Europe has learned. The European Union has been able to legalize abortion, but there are still some countries that have not yet legalized it.

Europe’s Abortion Lesson


Women from Sweden take part in a demonstration in Malmoe, Sweden, on October 3, 2016, in solidarity of Poland’s pro-abortion striking women.

Magnus Persson/Zuma Press photo

American leftists and some conservatives believe that legal abortion will be abolished if the Supreme Court overturns the Roe v. Wade decision. Since the Court is considering this, readers may benefit from instances of democracies that have coped with this challenging subject without the guidance of nine Justices.

We’re talking about Europe, where abortion is allowed in almost every country, typically with more restrictions than in the United States, and almost always as a consequence of democratic decision.

The unique aspect of European abortion laws is that they have all been adjusted to local customs after political discussion. The United Kingdom and the Netherlands are among the most lenient, permitting abortion up to 24 weeks of pregnancy in most circumstances—and at public money in the United Kingdom’s National Health Service.

At the opposite end of the scale, Poland and a handful of tiny, majority-Catholic nations prohibit abortion in most cases, despite the fact that women may travel freely throughout the European Union.

Abortion is legal in Sweden until the 18th week, after which it may only be done with medical approval if the fetus isn’t viable. It’s the first 90 days in Italy. Abortion on demand is legal in several countries, including Denmark, Germany, and Belgium, up to the 12th week, although France just increased it to 14 weeks and Portugal to 10. After certain periods, countries tend to impose stronger restrictions, such as demanding multiple physicians’ approval or permitting abortions only if the mother’s life is in danger.

In the absence of court orders requiring abortion access, European voters have opted to allow it in ways that would dismay American pro-lifers. However, even liberal and mainly secular Europeans enforce abortion restrictions that the pro-choice side in America believes are unconscionable. Mississippi’s prohibition, which is now before the Supreme Court, takes effect after 15 weeks.

Some European nations’ abortion regulations contain waiting periods, such as seven days in Italy and three days in Germany. Several nations, like Denmark and the Netherlands, require parental approval before minors may have an abortion. Counseling is required in Germany and Belgium.

Keeping abortion politics out of the courts and into the democratic realm has kept it from becoming a divisive front in the cultural war. This isn’t to say that abortion laws can’t be changed. In 2018, Ireland passed a vote legalizing abortion, while Germany just abolished a restriction on “promoting” abortion services. However, rather than loud fundraising letters, such changes occur when societal mores shift and as indecisive politicians and voters are persuaded. They usually signify an agreement that has the potential to last for a long period.

Note that European abortion legislation has mostly followed the path that most Americans prefer: abortion is legal in the first trimester but subject to increasing restrictions afterwards, and there are certain safeguards in place, such as a waiting time or parental notification for minors. The fundamental takeaway from Europe on abortion is that voters can be trusted with such a sensitive matter.

This new abortion politics will be an adjustment for partisans—on both sides—accustomed to haranguing 100 Senators over Supreme Court candidates rather than convincing millions of voters, if the US Supreme Court decides on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization as last week’s leak implies. But what a relief it will be if America can one day enjoy the relative political calm that Europe has on this divisive moral issue.

Democratic lawmakers want to codify Roe v. Wade, but they risk going too far. AP/AFP/Getty Images images Mark Kelly’s composite

Copyright ©2022 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

The print issue of the May 9, 2022, was published.

The “abortion politics in europe” is a lesson that Europe has learned. Abortion was legalized in France, Ireland and Portugal but it was also banned in Poland, Malta, Luxembourg and Belgium.

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