The Netherlands (Holland)

In 1981, the Dutch government made legal what had been freely available for years. The law authorizes a woman and her doctor to decide whether there exists an 'intolerable situation'. Abortion is allowed up to the 24th week, with a compulsory waiting period of five days.

Since 1986, the government has paid for abortions through the state health care system.

The Netherlands' abortion rate is lower than that of any other country. This is attributed to the extensive sex education and family planning programmes in schools, plus a sophisticated, government-funded pregnancy counselling and support service.

In addition, menstrual extraction is widely used and there is some debate as to whether this procedure is always recorded.