LONDON — In November, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she would explore offering Northern Irish women a free and legal means to terminate their pregnancy.
Abortion is only legal in Northern Ireland when a pregnant woman's life is at risk, but the NHS has so far refused to pay for the procedure for those who travel to Britain seeking help.
Sturgeon's plan may offer a way around this. In doing so, she also cast light on abortion laws.
Around the world, 58 of 196 countries provide abortions on request, and 134 of 196 countries only allow abortions to preserve a woman's physical health.
Six countries — El Salvador, Malta, the Vatican, Chile, the Dominican Republic, and Nicaragua — still refuse abortions to women under any circumstances, even if it's to save her life. It means that under many circumstances, such as rape, incest, or if the fetus has a severe abnormality, women still must bring a pregnancy to term.
Developing countries, which have the strictest laws around ending a pregnancy, have the highest unsafe abortion rates. It is estimated that around the world, 78,000 deaths result from unsafe abortions every year. These are the countries with the strictest abortion laws around the globe.
El Salvador has a complete ban on abortions — and the strictest reproductive rights laws in the world.
In the South American country, it is illegal to have an abortion under any circumstance, even if the pregnancy is endangering the life of the mother.
Women in El Salvador currently have to bring their pregnancy to term even if their lives, physical, or mental health is at risk as well as in cases of rape or incest, underage pregnancies, fetal impairment (if the fetus won't survive pregnancy or will struggle with health issues).
Women who have an illegal abortion face sentences of two to eight years in jail, and medical professionals who assist them can face up to 12 years in jail. This leads to doctors reporting their patients who experienced complications after miscarriages, or abortions to the police.
The law on abortion, which has been in place since 1998, says that women who experience miscarriages face up to 40 years of imprisonment for aggravated murder.
Between 2000 and 2011, 129 women were prosecuted under the abortion ban. Of those, 26 were charged with homicide.
Recently, the spread of the Zika virus left women anxious about pregnancies, and the Salvadorian government urged women not to get pregnant until 2018 to avoid babies being born with microcephaly, a rare malformation where babies have abnormally small heads.
Chile also has a total ban on abortion.
It is one of only six countries in the world to ban abortion without exception.
This is despite President Michelle Bachelet's efforts to relax laws and allow abortion in cases of rape, fetal impairment, or risk to the mother's life.
Currently, women face up to five years in jail if they seek to terminate their pregnancies illegally, but the number of women incarcerated has dropped from 88 in 2010 to five in 2012, with most women sentenced to probation.
The risk of spending time in prison doesn't seem to stop women from illegally, and unsafely terminating their pregnancies. A national study in 1990 estimated that 160,000 women terminated their pregnancies, and more recent numbers range between 60,000 and 300,000 abortions each year.
The complete ban on abortion was introduced in 1989. Beforehand, women were allowed to abort if their lives were at risk.
President Michelle Bachelet introduced a bill in January of 2015 to relax the laws on abortions. If the bill passes, women will be able to get legal abortions if the fetus has a congenital malformation or is unviable, if the pregnancy causes a danger to the life of the woman, or if the pregnancy is the result of a rape and the woman is no more than 12 weeks pregnant (or 14 weeks if the woman is under 14 years of age).
The bill was approved by three of five senators from Chile's Senate Health Commission in September of 2016, and will now need to pass through the constitutional commission, before a debate in the high chamber.
Malta is the only country in the European Union where abortion is illegal even in cases of rape, fetal impairment, or if the mother's life is in danger.
Women in Malta who terminate their pregnancies can face charges of up to three years in prison under the Criminal Code of Malta. The person performing the abortion can also be charged with the same prison sentence.
In Malta, 98% of the country is Catholic, which explains the strict abortion laws, as well as the fact that divorce was illegal in the country until 2011.
The Dominican Republic has a complete ban on abortion unless the pregnancy is life-threatening.
The ban reportedly leads to approximately 90,000 illegal abortions every year.
At the end of 2014, the country seemingly made a step forward in reproductive rights by allowing women to terminate their pregnancies in cases of threat to a woman's life, rape, incest, and some fetal malformations. However, the high court ruled that the new law was unconstitutional and reinstated the abortion ban.
Currently, abortion is a crime punishable by two to three years imprisonment for women and untrained third parties who participate in the termination of the pregnancy. If the woman dies in a botched abortion, the sentence can go up to 20 years.
Medical professionals aren't sanctioned for participating in an abortion "if all available scientific and technical means are exhausted to save two lives, as far as possible." That being said, health professionals can face up to 10 years in prison if they assist in illegal abortions.
The Penal Code used to ban all abortions in the Dominican Republic is based on the French Napoleonic Code of 1832.
Nicaragua has a total ban on abortion — but its laws are not as strict as El Salvador's.
In Nicaragua, abortion laws prevent women from terminating pregnancies even when their lives are at risk.
The laws are so strict that a single mother of two was refused life-saving chemotherapy to beat thyroid cancer earlier this year because she was pregnant. The treatment would have "killed" the fetus, and was considered an abortion.
The Penal Code introduced in 2006 provides sentences between one to two years for women who consent or self-induce their abortion, and anyone who causes an abortion through "recklessness" faces prison terms of one to three years.
Medical professionals who participate in the termination of pregnancies can face bans of one to five years in medical positions, as well as a prison sentence of up to three years.
Prior to 2006, therapeutic abortions (to save the physical or mental health of a pregnant woman) were legal in Nicaragua for more than a 100 years.
Ireland has an almost complete ban on abortions.
Ireland, one of the European countries with the strictest abortion laws, only allows women to abort if carrying the pregnancy to term if it is a threat to their lives. This only includes cases of medical emergencies or risks of suicide.
Irish laws on abortion are enshrined in the eight amendment of the Constitution of Ireland which recognizes the rights of unborn children. According to the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA), roughly 10 Irish women travelled to England every day in 2015 to terminate their pregnancies.
The cost of an abortion for Irish women in the United Kingdom varies between £425 for the pill and £1,395 for the 19 to 24 week surgical procedure, though they are free for women who live in Scotland, Wales, and England provided two different doctors give the greenlight.
In 2012, Savita Halappanavar died as she was suffering a miscarriage and doctors didn't do anything as they wanted to "wait and see what would happen naturally." In 2013, after Savita's death, lawmakers changed the policy so that doctors can induce abortions to save a woman's life, but not to safeguard her health.
The penalties for inducing an abortion in Northern Ireland is up to life in prison, while women in the Republic of Ireland face up to 14 years in jail, as well as a €4,000 (£3,360.20) fine.
Nearly 68% of people in Northern Ireland want abortions decriminalized in cases of rape and fetal abnormalities. Despite this, politicians in Northern Ireland voted to keep the strict laws intact.
Abortion is a free public service available to all women in China, but studies suggest the government uses abortion to enforce its two-child policy.
Abortions are a free service provided by the State in China.
However, the country uses a wide range of tools including contraceptive methods, financial sanctions, and forced abortions or sterilizations for those who do not comply to the one-child policy (or two-child if both parents are themselves only children).
In 2013, The Guardian interviewed women who were forced to have abortions in China's Guangxi province, where 17,000 women reportedly underwent the same procedure.
One woman who was forced to abort when she was eight months pregnant recalled the termination of her pregnancy: "He was still alive after the nurse pulled him out from me. He was a tough little creature. He clutched the nurse's sleeve and wouldn't let go. She had to peel his fingers off her one by one before she could drop him into the bin."
In the Philippines, women are technically allowed to have abortions to save their own lives, but the law does not explicitly state this.
The Philippines allows abortions only to save a woman's life. With 76 million Catholics living in the country, many Filippinos have conservative views on social issues such as abortion. In 2015, 93% of the population viewed abortion as immoral.
Women who abort face up to six years in prison under section 12 of the Philippines constitution. Physicians and midwives can also face up to six years in prison for assistant in an abortion, in addition to being unable to practise their jobs.
Any person in the Philippines also faces a prison sentence if they "cause an abortion by violence, but unintentionally."
In the US, women are technically allowed to have abortions, but States like Ohio, Arkansas, North Dakota and Texas have strict laws.
Some States put in place laws for abortion clinics, beyond the regulations already in place to ensure patient safety. These laws are known as Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP), and are put in place to make it almost impossible for abortion clinics to operate, making it harder for women to terminate their pregnancies.
Some of these laws, according to the non-profit Guttmacher Institute, include the limitation of public funding which means that lower income women won't be able to pay fees as high as $1,500 (£1,190.81) to terminate their pregnancies.
Other TRAP laws include the need for abortion clinics to have an agreement with a nearby hospital, have a certain width to their corridors, have specific room sizes, as well as meet a set of standards which are comparable to surgical centers.
Bolstered by the Republican majority in congress after Donald Trump's election, Ohio tried to pass the "Heartbeat Bill" which would ban abortions as soon as a heartbeat is detected. An ultrasound can detect a heartbeat within the first six or seven weeks.
Ohio Governor John Kasich vetoed the measure, while simultaneously passing a bill which outlaws abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.