Global views on abortion

A majority across 29 countries believe abortion should be legal in at least most cases.

The author(s)
  • Jamie Stinson Ipsos Knowledge Centre
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More than one in two (56%) across 29 countries believe abortion should be legal, including more than one in four (27%) who feel it should be legal in all cases.

Support for abortion is highest in Europe, with Sweden and France having the highest level of sentiment in believing abortion should be legal (87% and 82% respectively).

Support is lowest in Asia, with Indonesia and Malaysia the only countries where less than one in three think abortion should be legal (22% and 29% respectively).

Key takeaways:

  •  People are more likely to think abortion should be legal (56%) than illegal (28%).
  •  Support for abortion is highest in Sweden and France and lowest in Indonesia and Malaysia.
  •  People are less likely to feel abortions should be legal later in pregnancies. Sixty per cent think abortion should be legal in the first six weeks of a pregnancy while this falls to 25% after 20 weeks.
  • Baby boomers are the most likely to say that abortion should be legal, while support is lowest among younger men.

How people feel about abortion

On a global level, 56% think abortion should be legal, while 28% think it should be illegal.

Looking at how this data is broken down: 27% think abortion should be legal in all cases, 29% in most cases, while 17% think it should be illegal in most cases and 11% illegal in all cases.

Support for abortion is highest in Europe. In Sweden 61% say abortion should be legal in all cases, and 26% in most cases, while only 6% and 2% think it should be illegal in most or all cases.

France is the only other country surveyed where more than one in two (56%) say abortion should be legal in all cases. A further 26% think it should be legal in most cases.

Opposition to abortion

Only five out of the 29 countries surveyed – Indonesia, Malaysia, Colombia, Brazil and Peru - have more people saying they are against making the option to terminate a pregnancy legal than are for it.

By some distance Indonesia is the country most against abortion. Three in four (74%) think abortion should be illegal: 37% say it should be illegal in all cases and 37% in most cases. Only 22% think abortion should be legal and of that only 1% say it should be legal in all cases.

 

It is the only nation surveyed where there is a difference of more than 50% between those against compared and those for. Termination of a pregnancy in the country is only legal as a result of rape or in cases of risk to a woman’s health.

Three of the six LATAM countries surveyed have more against than for abortion. In Colombia 39% feel it should be legal and 45% illegal, in Brazil 39% to 43%, and Peru 41% to 44%.

 

The Generational and Gender divide

On a global level a higher proportion of women think abortion should be legal compared to men (59% to 52%), with 30% of women thinking it should be legal in all cases while 23% of men feel this should be the case.

A third of men (33%) think abortion should be illegal (20% in most cases, 13% in all cases) compared to 25% of women (15% in most cases, 13% in all cases).

Looking at support for abortion through a generational lens, it is younger men who have the lowest support for the issue. Less than half of Millennials and Gen Z males say they think abortion should be legal (48% and 47%). Conversely 57% of Millennial women and 61% of Gen Z women and believe it should be legal.

Baby boomers, considered by many as the most “conservative” generation, are the most in favour. While there is a gap in support between Gen Z women and men, this isn’t the case for baby boomers. Sixty-three per cent of female baby boomers say they think abortion should be legal, while 61% of male baby boomers say the same.

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When should abortion be legal?

In terms of when an abortion should be legal, if a woman’s life or health is at risk has the highest support. Globally almost eight in ten (78%) say it should be legal in this instance, compared to 10% who say it shouldn’t. Support is highest in Sweden (92%) and France (90%) and lowest in India (52%).

In the instance of rape, 72% globally think abortion should be legal. Support is again highest in France and Sweden (both 89%). Support is lowest in Indonesia, and it is the only country where more people say abortion should not be legal in the instance of rape compared to those that say it should be (50% to 32%). Indonesia also has the lowest support for whether abortion should be legal if the baby will be born with severe disabilities or health problems. Only 41% say they support abortion in this instance, while 41% say they would not support a woman having an abortion.

Globally there is less support for when a baby will be born with health problems, with 65% saying they support this. France and Hungary are most in favour (84% and 82%), while in Sweden, the most consistently supportive country in this report, 75% feel abortion should be allowed.

Should illegal abortions be penalised?

Looking at who is responsible in the event of an illegal abortion, people are more likely to feel the woman who had the abortion should not face a penalty. Almost one in two (47%) globally say she should not be penalised compared to a third (33%) that say she should.

People are more likely to feel those who either performed, or were involved in arranging the illegal abortion, should be punished. Forty-five per cent say the person who performed the abortion should face a penalty while 43% say the person who arranged the abortion should be punished.

However, in both cases there is a sizeable proportion of people who think neither should be penalised, with 36% feeling the person who performed the abortion shouldn’t be punished and 35% say the person who arranged it shouldn’t be punished.

People in North America and Europe are more likely to feel this way with the exception of Italy. While Italians are more likely to say a woman shouldn’t be punished for having an illegal abortion, more than one in two feel the person who arranged the abortion and the person who performed the procedure should be punished.

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The author(s)
  • Jamie Stinson Ipsos Knowledge Centre

Society