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Criminalising abortion does nothing to prevent it

Rates in the developed world are at an all-time low.

Amnesty campaigners outside the Dáil in March.
Amnesty campaigners outside the Dáil in March.
Image: Leah Farrell

ABORTION IN COUNTRIES which are developed and give women access to the procedure is at an all-time low, new figures show.

The figures from the Guttmacher Institute and World Health Organisation (WHO) were published in The Lancet this week.

The study also found that restrictive abortion regimes do not limit the number of abortions.

Indeed, in countries where abortion is strongly legally restricted, and often performed under unsafe conditions, the incidence of abortion is estimated to be as high as the incidence in countries where it is legal.

“In developed countries, the continued fall in abortion rates is largely due to increased use of modern contraception that has given women greater control over the timing and number of children they want,” explains lead author Dr Gilda Sedgh at the Guttmacher Institute, New York.

In developing countries, however, family planning services do not seem to be keeping up with the increasing desire for smaller families. More than 80% of unintended pregnancies are experienced by women with an unmet need for modern methods of contraception, and many unwanted pregnancies end in abortion.

The study used abortion data from nationally representative surveys, official statistics, and other published and unpublished studies, along with information on the level of unmet need for contraception and the prevalence of contraceptive use, by type of method. The researchers used a statistical model to estimate levels and trends in abortion incidence for all major world regions and subregions from 1990 to 2014.

4/7/2015 Anti Abortion Protests Source: RollingNews.ie

Between 1990 and 2014, the developed world’s annual abortion rate per 1,000 women of childbearing age (15–44 years) dropped from 46 to 27, mainly as a result of the rate in Eastern Europe more than halving (88 per 1000 women to 42) as modern contraceptive methods became more widely available. However, in the developing world the abortion rate has remained virtually unchanged, declining from 39 to just 37.

Worldwide, on average, 56 million abortions took place each year in 2010-2014.

Writing in a linked Comment, Professor Diana Greene Foster at the University of California says that the data is denser than simply “criminalising abortion doesn’t prevent it”.

This simple story overlooks the many women who, in the absence of safe legal services, carry unwanted pregnancies to term…Women who live in countries where abortion is illegal often have little access to the whole range of family planning services, including contraceptive supplies, counselling, information, and safe abortion.

“As a consequence of increased rates of unintended pregnancy and unsafe abortion, such women face an increased risk of maternal mortality and bear children that they are not ready to care for and often cannot afford.”

Read: Ireland will be grilled on its human rights record at the UN today – and it might not be pretty

Read: Paschal Donohoe says there will be a referendum on abortion in the coming years

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