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Haiti abortion policy grounds on which abortion is permitted

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Grounds on which abortion is permitted:
To save the life of the woman Yes

To preserve physical health No*

To preserve mental health No

Rape or incest No*

Foetal impairment No*

Economic or social reasons No

Available on request No
Additional requirements:
No information is readily available.

* Official interpretation generally permits these grounds.


Government view on fertility level: Too high

Government intervention concerning fertility level: To lower
Government policy on contraceptive use: Direct support provided
Percentage of currently married women using

modern contraception (aged 15-49, 1994/95): 13

Total fertility rate (1995-2000): 4.4
Age-specific fertility rate (per 1,000 women aged 15-19, 1995-2000): 70
Government has expressed particular concern about:

Morbidity and mortality resulting from induced abortion Yes

Complications of childbearing and childbirth Yes
Maternal mortality ratio (per 100,000 live births, 1990):

National 1 000

Caribbean 400
Female life expectancy at birth (1995-2000): 56.2


The performance of abortions in Haiti is governed by the provisions of the Haitian Penal Code, which is based on Article 317 of the French Penal Code of 1810. Under the Code, any person performing an abortion is subject to imprisonment, whether the woman consented to the abortion or not. A pregnant woman who performs her own abortion or permits an abortion to be performed on her is also subject to imprisonment. If the abortion is performed by a medical professional, the punishment is forced labor.

Nonetheless, under general criminal law principles of necessity, an abortion can be performed to save the life of the pregnant woman. Moreover, there are reports that, in practice, abortions are also performed to preserve the pregnant woman’s physical health and in cases of rape or incest or of foetal impairment.
In the early 1990s, Haiti went through a period of political instability that triggered a four-year long international embargo. During this period, Governmental action was significantly curtailed and reproductive health services were in very short supply. With the return to a constitutional Government in 1995, population and reproductive health became important national priorities. The Government is currently formulating a national population policy, and a national population census will be undertaken in 2001. The Ministry of Public Health and Population supports family planning and provides reproductive health services. Subsidized family planning services are officially available at Government hospitals and dispensaries, although they are still in short supply. While maternal mortality rates are generally high, contraceptive prevalence is low, although it increased from 5 per cent in 1987 to 13 per cent in 1994/95.
The incidence of abortion in Haiti is believed to be relatively high, particularly in urban areas. The 1994/95 Demographic and Health Survey found that 3 per cent of women had had at least one abortion since the onset of sexual activity; the percentage was 6 per cent in Port-au-Prince and 3.5 per cent in other urban areas.
Traditional medicine in Haiti is still frequently practised and at least 20 plants that supposedly have contraceptive and abortifacient properties are reported to be in use. Tests conducted on these herbs suggest that some of them have effective abortifacient effects that operate mainly by bringing about uterine contractions.

Source: Population Policy Data Bank maintained by the Population Division of the Department for Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat. For additional sources, see list of references.

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