Induced abortion is one of the most performed medical interventions. Making abortion illegal does not reduce the number of abortions. 20 million of the 42 million abortions performed annually are illegal and unsafe. Legalization of abortion can prevent unnecessary suffering and death of women.
Worldwide more than 1/3 of all pregnancies are unplanned. Every year nearly 1/4 of all pregnant women worldwide choose to have an abortion. The legal status of abortion makes little difference to overall levels of abortion incidence. Where illegal, most abortions are done with unsafe methods. Where illegal, it is primarily women without financial means who take recourse to unsafe abortion methods, resulting in the death of a woman every 8 minutes.
At the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, unsafe abortion was recognized as a major public health problem. The WHO estimates that 20 million of the 42 million pregnancies which are terminated by induced abortion every year are performed under unsafe conditions and in an adverse social and legal climate, resulting in approximately 70,000 deaths each year due to infection, hemorrhages, uterine injury and the toxic effects of agents taken to induce abortion.
At this moment approximately 25% of the world population lives in 54 countries (mainly in Africa, Latin America and Asia) with highly restrictive laws that either ban abortion entirely or permit it only to save the life of the pregnant women.
The poorer women are, the more likely it is that, faced with unwanted pregnancy, they will provoke an abortion themselves or go to a person without medical training, increasing health risks and the risk of hospitalization due to complications. Availability of safe and above all affordable abortion will also have implications for the future financial situation of such women and/or their families and can therefore be considered part of the struggle against poverty.
Rumania provides a unique case study of the factors that influence the use of unsafe abortion: in 1966 legal abortion was restricted and the abortion-related maternal mortality rate increased sharply, ten times higher than the average for the rest of Europe; in 1989 abortion was again made available on request and the number of maternal deaths fell sharply. By contrast the Netherlands has the lowest reported abortion rate because of a non-restrictive abortion law within a comprehensive framework that includes universal sex education in schools and easily accessible family planning services and the provision of emergency contraception. Of the 29,266 abortions performed there in 1997, the complication rate for first trimester treatments was 0,3% with no resulting deaths whatsoever.
Restrictive abortion laws violate women’s human rights based on agreements made at the UN International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (article 1 & 3 &12 &19 & 27.1).
this article originally appeared on womenonwaves.org