Book review: Research Handbook on International Abortion Law (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing, 2023)

Written by Mayela Celis

Undoubtedly, Abortion is a hot topic. It is discussed in the news media and is the subject of heated political debate. Indeed, just when one thinks the matter is settled, it comes up again. In 2023, Elgar published the book entitled “Research Handbook on International Abortion Law”, ed. Mary Ziegler (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing Limited, 2023). For more information, click here. Although under a somewhat misleading name as it refers to international abortion law, this book provides a wonderful comparative overview of national abortion laws as regulated by States from all the four corners of the world and internal practices, as well as an analysis of human rights law.

This book does not deal with the conflict of laws that may arise under this topic. For a more detailed discussion, please refer to the post Singer on Conflict of Abortion Laws (in the U.S.) published on the blog of the European Association of Private International Law.

In this book review, I will briefly summarise 6 parts of this book (excluding the introduction) and will provide my views at the end.


This book is divided into 7 parts:

Part I – Introduction

Part II – Histories of liberalization

Part III – The promise and limits of decriminalization

Part IV – Abortion in popular politics

Part V – Movements against abortion

Part VI – Race, sex and religion

Part VII – The role of international human rights


Part II – Histories of Liberalization

Part II begins with a historical journey of the abortion reform in Sweden in the 1930s and 1940s. It highlights the limited legalization of abortion in Sweden in 1938 and the revised abortion law in 1946 introducing a “socialmedical” indication. In particular, it underscores how the voices of women were absent from the process.

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Book review: Research Handbook on International Abortion Law (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing, 2023)