The number of abortions dropped nine percent worldwide between 1995 and 2003, from 46 million to 42 million annually, according to a new study by the Guttmacher Institute and World Health Organization (WHO). The decline was concentrated in developed regions like Europe where abortion is legal and birth control is widely available. The data demonstrates that women who have access to family planning services are less likely to need abortions and that making abortion illegal does not decrease its incidence.
Abortion rates declined only slightly in developing regions like Africa and South America where illegal and unsafe abortion is still prevalent. For every 1,000 Eastern African women of childbearing age, an estimated 39 had an abortion in 2003, compared with 29 of 1,000 worldwide, according to the study. Western Europe had the lowest abortion rate with 12 per 1,000 women.
“The overall downward trend in abortion rates is encouraging, but positive change is happening too slowly and too unevenly across different regions,” President and CEO of the Guttmacher Institute Dr. Sharon Camp told OneWorld.
Desperate women who are denied access to safe abortions often turn to charlatan doctors, poisons, sticks and coat hangers, procedures that often result in death, infertility or permanent physical injury, according to the Population Reference Bureau. In Africa, 20 to 50 percent of all gynecological beds are occupied by women seeking post-abortion care, reports the United Nations Population Fund. In 2003, 97 percent of an estimated 20 million unsafe abortions occurred in developing regions, killing nearly 70,000 women.