Who's More Pro-Choice: Europe or America?

3.3M Views
May 23, 2016

Are abortion laws more conservative in America or in Western Europe? Would a pregnant woman seeking an abortion have an easier time getting one in Texas or in...Germany? The answers, as talk show host Elisha Krauss explains, may just change how you think about America's abortion laws.

Most states in America allow abortions up to 20 weeks. That’s 8 weeks longer than many countries in Western Europe.

  • Most states in America allow abortions up to 20 weeks, with some permitting it even later.View Source
  • Germany, Finland, Belgium, Ireland, Denmark and other European countries have more stringent abortion laws than the U.S. For example, Germany restricts most abortions after 12 months and requires a three-day waiting period and counseling for all abortions.View Source
  • Finland requires the authorization of at least one doctor for abortions sought within the first 12 weeks.View Source
  • Belgium requires counseling, that a woman claim she is in a “state of distress” in the first trimester, and the agreement of two physicians that there is serious risk to a mother’s health after the first 12 weeks.View Source
  • Related video: “The Most Important Question About Abortion” – Dennis Prager, PragerUView Source

Many European countries have more stringent abortion laws than the United States, including Germany, Finland and Belgium. 

  • Germany requires a three-day waiting period for all abortions sought during the first trimester, as well as counseling sessions for all women seeking an abortion.View Source
  • Nearly all abortions in Germany are illegal after the first trimester.View Source
  • Finland requires the authorization of at least one doctor for abortions sought within the first 12 weeks.View Source
  • Belgium requires counseling, that a woman claim she is in a “state of distress” in the first trimester, and the agreement of two physicians that there is serious risk to a mother’s health after the first 12 weeks.View Source
  • Germany has one of the lowest abortion rates (151 per 1,000 live births) in Western Europe, as does Finland (174 per 1,000 live births).View Source
  • The U.S. now has some of the most pro-abortion policies in the Western world. Most states in America allow abortions up to 20 weeks.View Source

Progressives point to Europe as more socially enlightened than America. So why don’t they embrace Europe’s more stringent abortion policies?

  • Despite their generally progressive and secular worldview, Western Europeans have a much more conservative attitude about abortion than American progressives do.View Source
  • Author Emily Matchar on Western Europe’s abortion laws: “I assumed that Western Europe would be the land of abortion on demand…But as it turns out, abortion laws in Europe are both more restrictive and more complicated than that. Waiting periods, decried by American pro-choicers as…unreasonably burdensome, are common…”View Source
  • The U.S. now has some of the most pro-abortion policies in the Western world. Most states in America allow abortions up to 20 weeks.View Source
  • Related video: “The Most Important Question About Abortion” – Dennis Prager, PragerUView Source

Inconvenient abortion fact: Germany has more restrictive abortion laws than Texas. So do many other progressive European countries.

  • Germany requires a three-day waiting period for all abortions sought during the first trimester, as well as counseling sessions for all women seeking an abortion.View Source
  • Nearly all abortions in Germany are illegal after the first trimester.View Source
  • Germany has one of the lowest abortion rates (151 per 1,000 live births) in Western Europe.View Source
  • Most states in the U.S., even including Texas, allow abortions up to 20 weeks.View Source
  • Related video: “The Most Important Question About Abortion” – Dennis Prager, PragerUView Source

Russia was the first country to legalize abortion. Now it has more stringent laws than the United States.

  • Russia was the first country to legalize abortion, doing so in 1920. However, Russia now allows abortion upon request only for the first 12 weeks. After the first 12 weeks, a mother must meet special criteria.View Source
  • Russian clinics are now required to give warnings to women about possible health risks of abortions.View Source
  • Russia is not the only country to have more stringent abortion policies than the U.S.—most of Western Europe does as well.View Source
  • Most states in America allow abortions up to 20 weeks.View Source
  • Related video: “What You Need to Know About Planned Parenthood” – Lila Rose, PragerUView Source

America has more pro-abortion policies than many countries in Western Europe, which generally restrict abortion after the first trimester.

  • Germany, Finland, Belgium, Ireland, Denmark and other European countries have more stringent abortion laws than the U.S. For example, Germany restricts most abortions after 12 months and requires a three-day waiting period and counseling for all abortions.View Source
  • Finland requires the authorization of at least one doctor for abortions sought within the first 12 weeks.View Source
  • Belgium requires counseling, that a woman claim she is in a “state of distress” in the first trimester, and the agreement of two physicians that there is serious risk to a mother’s health after the first 12 weeks.View Source
  • The U.S. now has some of the most pro-abortion policies in the Western world. Most states in America allow abortions up to 20 weeks.View Source
  • Related video: “What You Need to Know About Planned Parenthood” – Lila Rose, PragerUView Source

American Progressives look to Western Europe as the model of what America should be. So, here’s an area of European social policy that Progressives will definitely want to examine more closely: Europe’s attitude toward…abortion.

It happens to be much more restrictive than that of the United States. That’s right. Western Europeans -- as progressive and secular as they are -- have a much more conservative attitude about abortion than American Progressives do.

Here is what Emily Matchar wrote in The Atlantic magazine in 2013: “I assumed that Western Europe would be the land of abortion on demand…But as it turns out, abortion laws in Europe are both more restrictive and more complicated than that. Waiting periods, decried by American pro-choicers as…unreasonably burdensome, are common…”

In Germany, for example, nearly all abortions are illegal after 12 weeks. And there is a three-day waiting period and mandatory counseling before a woman is allowed to have an abortion, even during the permitted first 12 weeks. That’s more restrictive than Texas.

In the U.S., abortions are legal in every state before a pregnancy has reached its 20th week. After that some restrictions do kick in. 11 states prohibit abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy. 20 states prohibit abortions at the point of viability, which is when a baby can survive outside the womb. Those states usually recognize that as being between 23-25 weeks…3 states prohibit abortion after the 28th week…And 7 states plus Washington, D.C. allow abortions to be performed at any point in a pregnancy -- even if the mother could safely give birth to a viable and healthy baby.

But in Belgium, like Germany, abortions are permissible only until the 12th week. After that an abortion is permitted only if the woman’s life is in danger. Furthermore, any woman getting an abortion must wait six days after her first medical consultation before an abortion can be performed.

Denmark is similar: After 12 weeks all sorts of restrictions apply.  Pregnant women in Finland also have until the 12th week of pregnancy to get an unrestricted abortion, and during those first 12 weeks, a woman must provide a compelling reason for ending her pregnancy.

In France, too, abortion on demand is legal only up to 12 weeks, after which it becomes much more difficult. Socialist Sweden allows abortions until the 18th week of pregnancy, and bans most after the 22nd week. In that four week “gray” period, a woman can get an abortion, but only if it is approved by the National Board of Health and Welfare.

In the Netherlands, before having an abortion a woman has to wait five days and attend a counseling session in which she must be informed of the different options available to her, including taking the pregnancy to term and giving her baby up for adoption. A minor under the age of 18 cannot have an abortion at any time unless she has the consent of her parents.

And in Norway in 2014, a major controversy erupted after it was revealed that, since 2001, 17 babies had been aborted after 22 weeks, the legal cut off point in that country. That wouldn’t merit a paragraph in a local U.S. newspaper, let alone start a media firestorm.

So why is it that abortion laws in the United States are so extreme relative to those in Europe?  Why is it that progressive politicians in the United States work tirelessly to fight back any restrictions on abortion, even partial-birth abortion. That’s the procedure during which a fully viable baby is almost completely delivered, except for the head, before being killed.  And why is it that what is unacceptable to socially enlightened Europeans is fully acceptable to American progressives?

Europeans seem to recognize that abortion is a complex moral issue; that ending a life after a certain point in a pregnancy does not reflect well on a society. Why is it so hard for American Progressives to recognize the same?

I’m Elisha Krauss for Prager University.

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