By: Joanna Hoffman, Special Projects Manager
The long-term decline of abortions worldwide has stalled, and unsafe abortions are now on the rise, according to Induced Abortion: Incidence and Trends Worldwide from 1995 to 2008, a report by the Guttmacher Institute and the World Health Organization (WHO) published yesterday by The Lancet. After a global decline in abortion rates from 35 per 1000 women in 1995 to 28 in 2008, progress has now stagnated. The proportion of unsafe abortions out of total abortions has risen from 44% in 1995 to 49% in 2008.
Halted progress in reducing total abortions coincides with the slowdown in contraceptive use recently documented by the United Nations. The developing world has seen a particular decrease in contraceptive prevalence, and is also where the majority of unsafe abortions occur. 97% of abortions in Africa and 95% in Latin America are unsafe. Abortion rates are highest in regions such as these, where abortions are illegal. 29 per 1000 women in Africa and 32 in Latin America have had abortions, as compared to 19 in North America.
“Within developing countries, risks are greatest for the poorest women,” said Iqbal Shah, a co-author of the study. “They have the least access to family planning services and are the most likely to suffer the negative consequences of an unsafe procedure. Poor women also have the least access to post-abortion care, when they need treatment for complications.”
The key to ending deaths from unsafe abortion is twofold, say the reports’ authors: invest in family planning and in safe abortion care. “[Deaths are] attributed to funding for family planning not keeping pace with demand as the size of the population is growing and women and couples want to have smaller families," noted Gilda Sedgh, another co-author. Currently, an estimated 215 million women worldwide have an unmet need for contraception. Regarding safe abortion care, the report notes that restrictive abortion laws are not associated with lower abortion rates; therefore, safe abortion services are critical to reducing death and injury from unsafe procedures.
Read the full report here.
Graph courtesy of the Guttmacher Institute