Friday, October 12, 2007

Abortion Rates and Legality

A new study finds that abortion rates are similar in nations that outlaw it and nations that do not. This supports the view of many (including me) that criminal sanctions on abortion are not the answer to reducing the number of abortions. The New York Times has the details:

A comprehensive global study of abortion has concluded that abortion rates are similar in countries where it is legal and those where it is not, suggesting that outlawing the procedure does little to deter women seeking it.

Moreover, the researchers found that abortion was safe in countries where it was legal, but dangerous in countries where it was outlawed and performed clandestinely. Globally, abortion accounts for 13 percent of women’s deaths during pregnancy and childbirth, and there are 31 abortions for every 100 live births, the study said.

The results of the study, a collaboration between scientists from the World Health Organization in Geneva and the Guttmacher Institute in New York, a reproductive rights group, are being published Friday in the journal Lancet.

“We now have a global picture of induced abortion in the world, covering both countries where it is legal and countries where laws are very restrictive,” Dr. Paul Van Look, director of the W.H.O. Department of Reproductive Health and Research, said in a telephone interview. “What we see is that the law does not influence a woman’s decision to have an abortion. If there’s an unplanned pregnancy, it does not matter if the law is restrictive or liberal.”

But the legal status of abortion did greatly affect the dangers involved, the researchers said. “Generally, where abortion is legal it will be provided in a safe manner,” Dr. Van Look said. “And the opposite is also true: where it is illegal, it is likely to be unsafe, performed under unsafe conditions by poorly trained providers.”

The data also suggested that the best way to reduce abortion rates was not to make abortion illegal but to make contraception more widely available, said Sharon Camp, chief executive of the Guttmacher Institute.

In Eastern Europe, where contraceptive choices have broadened since the fall of Communism, the study found that abortion rates have decreased by 50 percent, although they are still relatively high compared with those in Western Europe. “In the past we didn’t have this kind of data to draw on,” Ms. Camp said. “Contraception is often the missing element” where abortion rates are high, she said.



Read it all here.

2 comments:

Václav Patrik Šulik said...

The AP article states:

In North America, there are 33 abortions for every 100 live births, while in Africa, where abortion is illegal in most countries, there are 17 abortions for every 100 live births.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21255186/


The data then, is not consistent with this statement:

A new study finds that abortion rates are similar in nations that outlaw it and nations that do not.

JimII said...

I was startled by the claim of 31 abortions per 100 live births. That seemed crazy. Turns out it is:
The wealth of information that comes out of the study provides some striking lessons, the researchers said. In Uganda, where abortion is illegal and sex education programs focus only on abstinence, the estimated abortion rate was 54 per 1,000 women in 2003, more than twice the rate in the United States, 21 per 1,000 in that year. The lowest rate, 12 per 1,000, was in Western Europe, with legal abortion and widely available contraception.

I assume that the number at the top of the story (31 per 100 live births) is a mistake. I believe it should read 31 per 1000 live births.