Until the Second World War, the Government of Greece was strictly opposed to abortion except on medical grounds. The Greek Orthodox Church considers abortion to be a crime and has strongly condemned the procedure.
Under the Greek Penal Code of 1950, heavy penalties were imposed on both the woman consenting to the abortion and the person performing it. Abortion was permitted only if it constituted the only means of saving the life of the pregnant woman, or preventing a serious and lasting injury to her health; or of the pregnancy was the result of rape, incest, or the seduction of a girl under 15.
As abortion was and is widely used as birth control, an extensive illegal network existed, with prosecutions very rare.
In October 1978, the law was liberalized, permitting abortion for serious foetal deformities during the first 20 weeks. It was also allowed in cases of a risk to the mental health of the mother, as determined by a psychiatrist in a public hospital, but only in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
Abortion on demand during the first 12 weeks, was permitted after June 1986. Serious foetal deformity was extended to 24 weeks.
Although many Greek women use the National Health Care System for their abortion, most resort to private gynaecologists, primarily because private abortions are performed immediately. In contrast, the Government-run system is characterized by bureaucratic procedures and delays.