Termination of Pregnancy and Abortion in Japan

Information on who to contact and how to proceed in the event of an unwanted pregnancy. Also information on family planning clinics and emergency contraception in Japan...

Abortion is allowed in Japan in the first 24 weeks of a pregnancy under certain circumstances:

  • To save a woman's life or preserve her physical health
  • When the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest
  • For economic or social reasons

Abortions are not specifically allowed in order to maintain a woman's mental health or on the grounds of there being a problem with the foetus.

For many years Japan had a high incidence of abortion, primarily resulting from poor availability of modern contraception. As contraception has become more widely available the abortion rate has declined, although it remains high among teenagers.

Abortions must be carried out at an approved medical facility under the care of a doctor assigned by the local medical association. It is a punishable offence for anyone else to carry out an abortion. Medical abortions, where the pregnancy is terminated by a pill, are not allowed in Japan. All abortions in Japan are surgical procedures. Terminations performed in the early stages of pregnancy (up to approximately 12 weeks) do not usually require admittance to a hospital; terminations performed any later require a hospital stay.

Consent from either the woman or her spouse is needed to carry out a termination. If the woman is mentally impaired consent may be granted by her guardian. The woman's consent is not required if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.

Pregnant women wanting to have a termination should visit a ladies clinic or gynaecologist for a consultation. Most public hospitals do not carry out abortions and the procedure is not covered by Japanese health insurance. The cost of a termination depends on what stage in the pregnancy it takes place.

Japan Healthcare Info is an organisation dedicated to assisting the international community living in Japan with healthcare issues. It provides information, advice and assistance on a range of issues, including abortion and contraception.

Contraception

Oral contraceptives (piru in Japanese) became legal in Japan in 1999; prior to this they could only be prescribed for health problems, not as a contraceptive. They are only available via a consultation with an obstetrician or gynaecologist and are not covered by Japanese health insurance. The morning-after pill is also available via prescription from an obstetrician or gynaecologist. Condoms are readily available in pharmacies, local convenience stores and supermarkets.

The Japan Family Planning Association (otherwise known as the Family Planning Federation of Japan) is the main family planning organisation in the country.

Further Information