Jan 28

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January 28, 1935: Iceland Becomes First Country to Legalize Abortion

On this day in 1935, Iceland became the first country in the world to legalize abortion… technically.

It’s debatable on saying which country was the first to legalize abortion. The Soviet Union legalized abortion in 1919, but Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin made abortions illegal in 1936 for the purposes of increasing population growth, not because of passionate feelings on when life begins (the USSR reversed its policy in 1955).

And while we’re at it, here are a few more tidbits.

  • Poland also legalized abortions in 1932, but only in cases of rape and threat to maternal health;
  • Nazi Germany began permitting abortions in 1935 for the purposes of social hygiene;
  • Sweden became the second country in the world to legalize therapeutic abortion in 1938.

Presentation of this timeline seems to differ based on advocates positions on the issue. However, these are the facts as I’ve researched them and Iceland holds the distinction of being the first to implement the therapeutic abortion laws that we see in the Western world today.


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