Illegal Abortions on the Rise Globally: Study

  on January 19 2012 11:17 PM
  • Illegal Abortions on the Rise Globally: Study
    Nearly half the abortions performed in the world are unsafe, often because of restrictive laws banning the procedure. The Guttmacher Institute and World Health organization reports restrictive laws do not correspond with lower abortion rates. Reuters
  • Illegal Abortions on the Rise Globally: Study
    According to a new study, the proportion of all abortions that are unsafe has increased with 95 percent of abortions in Latin America more unsafe in comparison to 40 percent of those in Asia. Reuters
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A  study states that unsafe abortion rates have risen leading to an increase in incidences of maternal mortality.

While analyzing links between incidents of abortion and the legal status of abortion, the study stated that 95 percent of abortions in Latin America are unsafe in comparison to the 40 percent of those in Asia.

The new study published today in the online edition of The Lancet noted that restrictive abortion laws are not associated with lower abortion rates.

The new research from the Guttmacher Institute in the U.S. observed that the proportion of unsafe abortions had increased since 1995, with nearly half of all abortions worldwide categorized as unsafe in 2008.

However, the study also stated that global abortion rate was stable between 2003 and 2008, with rates of 29 and 28 abortions per 1000 women, aged 15 to 44 years respectively. This was in comparison to a decline from 35 abortions per 1000 women in 1995.

The average annual percent change in the rate was nearly 2·4 percent between 1995 and 2003 and 0·3 percent between 2003 and 2008.

Based on the findings, the authors discussed that there is an urgent need to invest in measures to minimize unintended pregnancies and unsafe abortions, according to the Millennium Developmental Goals (MDGs) of the WHO related to maternal health.

Half of all abortions (49 percent to 44 percent in 1995) are now unsafe says the study. They are carried out by unqualified persons, usually in unhygienic conditions, and more often than not end in infection or hemorrhage and death of the woman.

In 2008, the worldwide rate of unsafe abortions was 49 percent as compared to the 44 percent in 1995. The study recognized that about one in five pregnancies ended in an abortion in 2008.

The most recent progress report on MDGs showed that the gap between developed and developing countries is largest with respect to maternal health.

The authors wrote, Our estimates of the rates of unsafe abortion across countries and regions tend to align with independent sub national, national, and regional research of the incidence of abortion-related morbidity and mortality, where such evidence exists.

However, among the abortions classified as either safe or unsafe, there is a spectrum of risk associated with the procedure that depends on factors such as training of providers, abortion methods used, and the extent to which abortions is done under hygienic conditions. This risk range is not represented in the simple classification system we used because detailed information about abortion provision was unavailable for most countries, they added.

The data gathered stated that the number of abortions fell by 0·6 million in the developed world since 2003 but increased by 2·8 million in the developing regions. The estimated annual number of abortions rose moderately in Africa and Asia, and slightly in Latin America; it fell a bit in Europe and North America and held steady in Oceania.

Because abortions are not documented in countries with high restrictions on abortion laws, many times incidences remain under-reported in regions where abortion is highly stigmatized.

An impact of the study also noted evidence from various countries, including some of those with highly restrictive abortion laws, suggesting that the use of misoprostol as an abortifacient has been spreading.

The study stated, Although clandestine medical abortions are likely to be of lower risk than other clandestine abortions, there is substantial variation in medical abortion regimens used illegally, and complications such as prolonged and heavy bleeding and incomplete abortions are associated with use of incorrect dosages. The study has classified these procedures as unsafe.

The safety of an abortion procedure is also affected by the gestational age of the fetus at the time of the abortion.

The study explained that women might delay seeking an abortion where the laws are restrictive or abortion is widely stigmatized, and the prevalence of late abortions might change with time. There remains a gap in research on unsafe abortions as research on gestational age at abortion is extremely scarce, the study inferred.

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