Worldwide Abortion Rates on Decline: Study

by VR Sreeraman on Oct 14 2009 12:42 PM

The global rate of abortions and unwanted pregnancies has fallen, a study said Tuesday but warned that unsafe terminations, specially in developing nations, was killing 70,000 women a year.

Abortions decreased from an estimated 45.5 million in 1995 to 41.6 million in 2003, said the US-based Guttmacher Institute sexual health organisation, which launched its report in London.

However, too many women were undergoing unsafe abortions, particularly in the developing world, said the study, entitled "Abortion Worldwide: a Decade of Uneven Progress".

It calculated that unsafe terminations caused some 70,000 deaths per year and five million women were treated annually for complications resulting from such procedures.

Another three million women with complications went untreated, the study claimed.

Guttmacher Institute president Sharon Camp said abortion was safe and legal in almost all developed countries.

"But in much of the developing world, abortion remains highly restricted, and unsafe abortion is common and continues to damage women's health and threaten their survival," she said.

The report said that 40 percent of women lived in states with "highly restrictive" abortion laws, almost all of them developing countries. It said abortion was completely illegal in 32 countries.

The report found that 97 percent of reproductive-age women in South America lived under tight abortion laws and 92 percent in Africa, proportions that were unchanged over the last decade, the institute said.

It found that 19 countries had "significantly reduced" abortion law restrictions since 1997, while three had "substantially increased" them.

"The gains we've seen are modest in relation to what we can achieve," Camp said.

"Investing in family planning is essential, far too many women lack access to contraception, putting them at risk.

"Legal restrictions do not stop abortion from happening, they just make the procedure dangerous," it said. "Too many women are maimed or killed each year because they lack legal abortion access."

The study said the unintended pregnancy rate worldwide fell from 69 per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44 in 1995 to 55 per 1,000 in 2008.

Meanwhile the proportion of married women using contraception increased from 54 percent in 1990 to 63 percent in 2003. The rate among single women worldwide also went up.