15 October 2009
By Kounteya Sinha
New Delhi India
The number of women aborting an unwanted child have dipped globally. But the rate of unsafe terminations continue to be almost as bad. Around 41.6 million women underwent abortions in 2003 compared to 45.5 million in 1995 – a drop to 29 per 1,000 women from 35.
This, however, failed to reduce the number of unsafe abortions performed, which remained relatively flat from 19.9 million to 19.7 million between 1997 and 2003. Such unsafe procedures are also killing 70,000 women a year, mostly in developing countries. An additional five million women are treated annually for complications resulting from unsafe abortion. However, over three million women who experience serious complications from unsafe procedures go untreated, according to US–based Guttmacher Institute report called “Abortion Worldwide: A Decade of Uneven Progress”.
The report says that abortions in Asia declined from 33 per 1,000 women (15–44 years of age) in 1995 to 29 per 1,000 women in 2003. But one in eight maternal deaths in this region result from unsafe abortions. Over 2.3 million women are hospitalised annually for treatment of complications from unsafe abortion in this region.
Worldwide, the unintended pregnancy rate declined from 69 per 1,000 women aged 15–44 in 1995 to 55 per 1,000 in 2008. The proportion of married women using contraception increased from 54% in 1990 to 63% in 2003. South–East Asia recorded the highest abortion rate in 2003 – 39 per 1,000 (23 per 1,000 unsafe and 16 per 1,000 safe).
Because abortion is legal in two of the world’s most populous countries, China and India, only an estimated 28% of women of child bearing age in Asia live in countries with restrictive abortion laws.
Globally, there are an estimated 76 million unwanted pregnancies each year. “The annual number of abortions in Asia fell slightly between 1995 and 2003, from 26.8 million to 25.9 million. Of the 26 million abortions performed in 2003, about 16 million were safe and 10 million unsafe procedures,” the report said.
Unintended pregnancy rate globally has fallen to 55 per 1,000 women aged 15–44 in 2008 from 69 per 1,000 in 1995. According to the report, the decline in worldwide abortion occurred alongside a global trend toward liberalizing abortion laws. Nineteen countries have significantly reduced restrictions in their abortion laws since 1997, while only three countries have substantially increased legal restrictions.
Despite these trends, 40% of the world’s women live in countries with highly restrictive abortion laws, virtually all of them in the developing world. Sharon Camp, president and CEO of the Guttmacher Institute, said, “In much of the developing world, abortion remains highly restricted, and unsafe abortion is common and continues to damage women’s health.”