Abortion is much more common in countries where it is illegal, according to a new study.
Scientists at the Collaborating Center for Reproductive Health couldn't say if stricter anti-abortion laws directly led to more procedures, but concluded that good access to birth control contributed to lower abortion rates, The Associated Press reported.
The study also said that nearly half of all abortions worldwide are unsafe, with most occurring in developing countries.
Gilda Sedgh, a senior researcher at the Guttmacher Institute in the U.S. who led the study, said deaths and complications from terminating unwanted pregnancy could be easily unavoidable.
Lauren Steitcher, an assistant clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University, agrees. Fifty percent of undesired pregnancies are due to failed contraception, Streicher told ABC News. Of those unplanned pregnancies, 50 percent resolve in abortion, so the need for abortion is always going to be there. By criminalizing it, you're just increasing the amount of women who have poor and dangerous outcomes.
Using official statistics, national surveys and hospital records, Sedgh and her team developed the following numbers:
- For every 1,000 women aged 15 to 44, 28 women had the procedure between 2003 and 2008.
- A total of 43.8 million woman aged 15 to 44 had abortions between 2003 and 2008. The rate was dropping every year before 1995, but has remained stagnant between those two years.
- About 47,000 women died from unsafe abortion in 2008, while 8.5 million women had serious medical complications.
- The proportion of unsafe abortions rose from 44% in 1995 to 49% in 2008.
- Abortion rates tend to be higher in regions with more restrictive anti-abortion laws, like Latin American and Africa. In those regions, 95-97% of abortions were unsafe.
- Abortion rates are lowest in Western Europe (12 per 1,000) and highest in Eastern Europe (43 per 1,000).
The authors defined unsafe abortion as any procedure done by people who lack medical skills or are done in places that lack the appropriate medical standards. Sedgh told The Associated Press some women in Africa use broken soda bottles or take strong doses of medicines or herbal drugs to get rid of an unwanted pregnancy.