Real Time: Abortion Declines Worldwide

Rachel Larris

The number of induced abortions worldwide declined from nearly 46 million to under 42 million between 1995 and 2003, with the most significant reductions in regions showing increased contraceptive use, a Guttmacher/WHO study released today found.

A researcher from the Guttmacher Institute, along with researchers from the World Health Organization, just had a study published in The Lancet looking at abortion trends from 1995 to 2003 which showed, safe or unsafe, "women are just as likely to get an abortion in countries where it is outlawed as where it is legal" and reported on a worldwide fall abortion rates.

Logically for an abortion rate to fall either there has to be less sex (does anyone think that really happens?), an increase in births, or option “c”—fewer unintended pregnancies through an increased use of contraceptives. And option c was what the study found. Where abortion declined significantly the study attributed the drop not to increased birth rates (which are dropping in Eastern Europe) but to “a trend that corresponds with substantially increased contraceptive use in the region.”

It's clear to me then that if anti-choice forces really wanted fewer abortions in the U.S., they should be dedicated to keeping it legal. Western Europe has a ratio of 12 abortions per 1,000 women whereas in North America (which includes Canada) the ratio is 21 per 1,000. Meanwhile in places where the procedure isn't lawfully permitted, the 39 unsafe abortions per 1,000 women (in Eastern Africa) and 33 per 1,000 (in South America) testify to the fact that many women will break the law to end a pregnancy.

Smart anti-choice people may say, “I think there should be increased contraception access, but no choice of abortion.” But that’s not the bargain offered in America. Name for me one anti-abortion group that spends a significant amount of time lobbying for an increase in contraception and sex education. It's impossible – there aren't any.

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Groups like Concerned Women For America and the Family Research Council aren’t suggesting we outlaw abortion but follow the Western European model of sex education and readily available birth control. They don’t want contraception covered by insurance. They don’t want Plan B to be available over the counter. They don’t want comprehensive sex education taught in school.

But unfortunately for them (and for women) what reduces abortions is a trade-off they aren’t willing to make – increased contraception use. Anti-choice groups must not care what the number of abortions is, as long as its greater than zero. Unfortunately what this study should prove to them is that its NEVER going to be zero, even when abortions are outlawed and women are killed for having them. The needle never drops to zero.

This piece was originally published at NewsCat.

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