This chapter details the criminalisation of abortion. A review of the history of the criminal law on abortion reveals that for most of history abortion remained outside the law. Criminalisation when it did occur was closely tied to the religious positioning of abortion in western societies. This chapter considers trends in the latter part of the 20th century abortion when countries which had criminalised abortion began to relax the laws, whilst in other settings restrictions were introduced. The impact of restrictive laws and restricted access include an exploration of the data related to death and serious injury resulting from unsafe abortion as well as the risk of criminality. A consideration of methodological issues in measuring the impact of unsafe abortion identifies new methods to quantify this. Case studies of Ireland and Uruguay highlight how restrictive laws are experienced in contrasting settings. The chapter concludes by considering the case for decriminalisation of abortion laws.
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