Thursday, January 19, 2012

Global View:The Number of Unsafe Abortions Rises

WHO in collaboration with New York based Guttmacher Institute published today a deeply disturbing report in The Lancet on abortions incidence and trends worldwide from 1995 to 2008. The study included data on induced pregnancy terminations from all world regions, combining  complex information from official sources, hospital records and surveys. The study shows that although the total number of abortions is in decline, the number of unsafe* abortions has risen from 44% in 1995 to 49% in 2008, putting more women at serious health risk and in life threatening situations (13% of maternal deaths attributes to unsafe abortions). Approximately 97% of all abortions in Africa and 95% in Latin America  were considered unsafe (with only 9% in Europe). What's substantial, in many african countries these numbers are extremely high even if abortion laws are liberal.
Additionally, data strongly indicate that abortion rates are lower in subregions were more women live under liberal abortion laws, and thus this study does not support the common pro-life justification for stringent abortion laws.
Association of abortion rate with prevalence of liberal abortion laws by subregion in 2008, The Lancet

Not surprisingly, the lowest abortion incidence was observed in western european countries, where abortion laws are either very liberal or liberally interpreted, and where's wide access to family planning and contraception.

The overall conclusion driven from this study indicates that restrictive abortion laws not only DO NOT PREVENT abortions, but rather contradict their goals and contribute to higher abortion rates and higher maternal mortality. 

* "(...)as in previous efforts to estimate abortion incidence and consistent with WHO practice, we used the operational definition of unsafe abortions, which is abortions done in countries with highly restrictive abortion laws, and those that do not meet legal requirements in countries with less restrictive laws. Safe abortions were defined as those that meet legal requirements in countries with liberal laws, or where the laws are liberally interpreted such that safe abortions are generally available", Sedgh et al., The Lancet 2012

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