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Washington Post Fact Check Confirms: US 1 of Just 7 Countries to Allow Elective Abortion After 20 Weeks

The Washington Post Fact Checker tackled a claim Monday related to the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would prohibit abortion after 20 weeks, finding the fact that the U.S. is just one of seven countries that permit elective abortion after 20 weeks “a bit surprising.” The verdict? Turns out it’s true.


The claim came from the White House’s statement of policy that “The United States is currently out of the mainstream in the family of nations, in which only 7 out of 198 nations allow elective abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.”

Fact Checker’s Michelle Ye Hee Lee traced the claim back to its original source, a 2014 report by the pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute.

The report is based on an analysis of 198 countries and other independent or “semiautonomous” regions with more than 1 million residents.

Of these countries, 59 allow abortion “without restriction as to reason,” or “elective,” or “abortion on demand.”

Lee found that the list of countries “correlates with another similar report, also from 2014, published by a group that supports reproductive rights.”

The report found that only seven of those 59 countries allow elective abortions after 20 weeks: Canada, China, Netherlands, North Korea, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.

She did note some “minor caveats” with the findings such as that “Australia has no federal abortion law, and each state and territory can set its own abortion guidelines. They vary in how restrictive they are; some states do not allow any elective abortions, and others do.”

“We’ll also note that the fact that elective abortion is legal in a certain country does not mean all the women there have access to abortion services or to clinics,” Lee added. “Plus, the quality and level of health care in all of the seven countries are not equal; for example, health care in the United States really can’t be compared to North Korea.”


Katherine Mayall, director of capacity building at the Center for Reproductive Rights Global Legal Program, claimed that pointing to the fact that just seven of 198 countries allow post-20 week abortions “gives a simplistic view of abortion laws in the seven countries,” and is “a look at the letter of the law, and it does not take into account whether the exceptions for women past the federal gestational limit are interpreted more liberally by lower levels of government.”

Lee said that the Lozier Institute’s statistic “seemed dubious at first, because it seemed extreme for just seven countries out of 198 to allow elective abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.”

“But upon further digging, the data back up the claim,” she concluded. “We should note that some of the seven countries allow abortions after 20 weeks, but ban it after 24 weeks. And other countries have no federal limits, but legislate at the state or provincial level, similar to the United States.”

The statistic was given a “Geppetto Checkmark” for when a factoid surprisingly turns out to contain “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”

A Planned Parenthood claim that 60 percent of Americans oppose a 20 week abortion ban, on the other hand, did not pass the Fact Checker’s scrutiny in 2015 when similar legislation was being debated. Planned Parenthood still tweeted out this statistic last week despite earning Two Pinocchios for “significant omissions and/or exaggerations” when it made the same claim two years ago.


The Post noted at the time that “Americans generally are opposed to abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. A 2013 Washington Post-ABC News poll found 56 percent of voters preferred limiting unrestricted abortion rights to 20 weeks rather than 24 weeks.”

They concluded that the 2013 Planned Parenthood poll, that the abortion giant recycled both in 2015 and 2017, referenced only specific situational questions such as abortion in case of rape or if the fetus is not viable. They called the claim “misleading” since it “did not specify that it was asking about terminating a pregnancy 22 weeks after a woman’s last menstrual period” and “did not test for the actual bill under consideration.”

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