These Are The Countries That Deny Abortion - Even If You've Been Raped Or Have Cancer

The recent decision of a court in El Salvador to uphold a 30-year prison sentence for a woman who claims she suffered a stillbirth has once again shed light on the country's tough anti-abortion laws.

Teodora Vásquez, 37, was convicted of aggravated murder in 2008. The woman claims she called an ambulance and collapsed after she suffered from abdominal pain, only to wake up to find her unborn child had died. Authorities, however, accused her of having induced an abortion.

Vásquez already served nearly 10 years in prison. The court's refusal to overturn her sentence reignited a debate on the country's abortion laws and revived calls to free women who suffered miscarriages and stillbirths.

El Salvador is among five countries that have a blanket ban on abortion, not allowed even in case of rape or when the mother's health is at risk.

 Teodora Vasquez
People demand the release of Teodora Vasquez in front of the Isidro Menendez Judicial Center on December 13, 2017. A court decided to uphold the 30-year prison term, given to Vasquez after she was found guilty of 'aggravated homicide' for a stillbirth in her ninth month of pregnancy. OSCAR RIVERA/AFP/Getty Images

"El Salvador has one of the most draconian abortion laws in the world, which does not meet international human rights obligations," rights group Amnesty International said.

"Penalties are severe, ranging from two to eight years in custody for both women and those who help them, and with longer sentences of six to 12 years for health professionals. In the most extreme cases, women have been incarcerated on charges of aggravated homicide, which carries a penalty of up 50 years in prison."

There were six countries with a blanket ban until this August, when Chile passed a law granting the practice in case of rape, if the mother's life is at risk or when a fetus is not viable.

Here is a list of the other countries with some of the harshest anti-abortion laws in the world.


In 2006, Nicaragua implemented a total ban on abortion, a decision rights groups say has resulted in a rise of clandestine abortions and maternal mortality.

Human Rights Watch said that domestic violence is widespread in Nicaragua and can result in unwanted pregnancies.

"Women face between one and two years in prison. The penalties for medical professionals range from one to six years in prison for providing abortion, with the disqualification of medical professionals for two to ten years," the organization said.

In 2008, a legal challenge was submitted to the Supreme Court arguing that abortion laws were unconstitutional. However, the court never ruled on the matter.

In 2010, doctors refused to provide cancer treatment to a pregnant woman amid fears they could be prosecuted if they caused harm to the fetus.

Nicaragua abortion laws
Nicaraguan activists take part in a protest in favor of abortion during the Day for the Decriminalization of Abortion in Latin America and the Caribbean, in Managua, on September 28, 2011. The sign reads "Legal and safe abortion not to die". ELMER MARTINEZ/AFP/Getty Images

The Dominican Republic

The country implemented a blanket ban in 2009. Abortion is punishable with imprisonment from between two and three years for women and girls and up to ten years for doctors and medical professionals. Attempted abortion is sanctioned.

Similar to Nicaragua, the case of a pregnant woman denied chemotherapy became the emblem of the country's harsh abortion laws.

In 2012, 16-year-old Rosaura Almonte, who suffered from leukemia, died from hypovolemic shock. She was denied treatment on the grounds that it would have affected the seven-week fetus she was carrying.

In November 2014 the country's President, Danilo Medina, recommended new legislation that allows abortion in some cases: Rape, incest, a fetus with a fatal impairment or when the mother's life is in danger, according to Amnesty.

However, this May, the country's senate voted to uphold the total ban.


Abortion is criminalized in all cases and it is punishable with prison terms of between 18 months and three years.

The country is thought to be the only EU nation where the practice is banned outright.

Earlier this year, the Council of Europe's Commissioner for human rights, Nils Muižnieks, called for a public debate on abortion in Malta and relaxation of laws banning the practice.

"The fact that the authorization of emergency contraception results from a grass-roots campaign is a signal that Maltese society has evolved on these issues. However, I note that abortion remains a taboo issue not debated publicly," he said.

The Vatican

Vatican abortion
Inna Shevchenko, leader of the Ukrainian feminist protest group Femen is held by policemen outside Saint Peter's Square in the Vatican on December 19, 2013. Femen activists started an international topless marathon to protest against the Catholic church's views on abortion. The Holy See is among the countries where abortion is banned outright. GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images

Abortion is not allowed under any circumstance. The Holy See rejects the practice as it does not respect human life and violates divine laws.

Earlier this year, the Vatican criticized the UN's decision to include some abortion methods in a resolution on emergency humanitarian assistance.

Archbishop Ivan Jurkovič, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the UN, told the organization that abortion should not be considered a part of "sexual and reproductive health."