Report shows global abortion rate drops

A British Journal found that one-fifth of pregnancies end in abortions.

by Lindsay Guentzel

Global abortion rates have dropped from nearly 46 million in 1995 to fewer than 42 million in 2003, according to a report issued last week in a journal focusing on women’s health.

The report, “Induced Abortion: Rates and Trends Worldwide,” was compiled by the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive rights organization, and the United Nations’ World Health Organization.

The groups studied abortion rates in countries where abortion is legal and in countries where it isn’t.

Published in the British journal The Lancet, the study found that one-fifth of pregnancies worldwide end in abortions.

The study also found the abortion rate decreased at a higher rate in developed countries, where abortion is generally legal and safer than abortions done in developing countries.

The primary reason for a decrease in abortion worldwide is increased use of contraception, the study showed.

According to the WHO, liberal abortion laws don’t always guarantee safe abortions.

For example, the organization said the Cambodian government permits abortions, but many are performed by unqualified providers, which can put the woman’s health at risk.

Dr. Ed Ehlinger, the director of Boynton Health Service, said because abortions can be dangerous, it’s important to offer other options for individuals.

“Abortion is not an outcome we’d like to have,” he said. “We really need to make family planning and sexual health information available to folks.”

Of the 20 million unsafe abortions the report stated were performed each year, nearly 68,000 women died from complications, accounting for 13 percent of deaths during pregnancy and childbirth.

While the abortion rate in China dropped 21 percent from 1995 to 2003, abortions in the country accounted for one-fifth of the world’s abortion total in 2003, the study reported.

According to the China Ministry of Health, the abortion rate in the country declined from 29 to 23-per-1,000 women from 1996 to 2003.

Liping Wang, a history department associate professor, said she feels China, her home country, is going through a sexual revolution in which many people are becoming sexually active earlier in life.

“Young people don’t know how to protect themselves,” Wang said.

The study found 70 percent of abortions in China were attributed to contraceptive failure.

Western Europe, an area where contraception is used and more easily accessed, had the lowest abortion rate of 12 per 1,000 women in 2003.

Wendy Hellerstedt, an associate professor in the School of Public Health, said she feels many European countries take a more comprehensive approach to sexual health.

“Specifically, it involves better access to contraception,” Hellerstedt said.

The report is important because abortion is a common procedure worldwide, she said.

It can be difficult to collect data on abortion, but Hellerstedt said the groups conducting the study are highly regarded organizations.

The report was published Oct. 13.