Unsafe abortion still kills 70,000 women every year, almost exclusively in countries where the procedure is illegal. But as abortion laws liberalize around the world, the abortion rate has actually decreased. Why? More women have access to contraception.
Guttmacher estimated previously that the number of abortions worldwide fell from 45.5 million in 1995 to 41.6 million in 2003 — the latest year for which global figures were available.
A key reason for that drop, the new report said, was that the portion of married women using contraception increased from 54 percent in 1990 to 63 percent in 2003 as availability increased and social mores changed. Guttmacher’s researchers said contraceptive use had increased in every major region, but still lagged badly in Africa — used by only 28 percent of married women there, compared with at least 68 percent in other major regions.
The report notes that abortions worldwide are declining even as more countries liberalize their abortion laws. Since 1997, it said, only three countries — Poland, Nicaragua and El Salvador — substantially increased restrictions on abortion, while laws were eased significantly in 19 countries and regions, including Cambodia, Nepal and Mexico City.
While it’s good news that contraception use is up and therefore the abortion rate is down, forty percent of the world’s women still live in places where abortion is highly restricted. According to the Guttmacher survey that spawned this article, 92 percent of African women and 97 percent of Latin American women live under severely restricted abortion laws. The results are devastating:
Unsafe abortion causes an estimated 70,000 deaths each year, and an additional five million women are treated annually for complications resulting from unsafe abortion. Approximately three million women who experience serious complications from unsafe procedures go untreated.
Besides the horrific human cost, illegal abortion is also a public health crisis and a major expense.
We know that illegal abortion kills women. We know that contraception and sexual health education are the best tools out there to decrease the unintended pregnancy rate. So why aren’t “pro-lifers” out there on the front lines promoting birth control access?
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