Unsafe Abortions take 70,000 lives every yearWednesday, October 14th, 2009
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The Guttmacher Institute held a media launch in London yesterday, in which they discussed the new data they have gathered regarding the number of global legal and clandestine abortions.
As part of my two week internship with IPPF I was asked to cover the event and so I waited nervously, as seasoned members of the British press descended upon the launch to hear Dr Sharon L.Camp (President of Guttmacher), Dr Akinrinola Bankole (Director of International Research for Guttmacher) and Dr Kelly Culwell (Senior Advisor on Abortion for IPPF) as they spoke about the falling rate of abortion.
However, not everything is looking good. Even someone like me, who has never attended a press conference on this issue or read up on it in great detail, could see that the statistics that emerged on illegal abortions demanded attention.
For instance, while the number of legal abortions have fallen (from 46 million in 1995 to 42 million in 2003), the number of women resorting to clandestine abortions is static. Also the report has uncovered that for every one legal abortion, two illegal and possibly dangerous abortions take place.
In the developed world, progress is rapid in making abortions safer and easier to access, but this is not so in many parts of Africa and Latin America. Limited services and restrictive laws mean that most women have few alternatives.
Annually, 20 million unsafe abortions take place, resulting in over 70,000 deaths. The report finds that liberalising abortion laws could help reduce this figure. In South Africa, once restrictive laws against abortion were lifted in 1996, there was a 50% decline in deaths due to abortion.
Dr Culwell agrees that liberalizing laws could lower the need for dangerous abortions, but says that ‘the law is not enough. ‘In order to lower unintended pregnancies which could lead to unsafe abortions, there is a pressing need for ‘new contraceptive technology and family planning services,’ says Dr Camp.
The Netherlands, a country in which the abortion rate is relatively low (10 per 1000 women) is an example of what can be achieved with good access to contraception and health care. The ‘Double Dutch’ system recommends the use of two contraceptives at a time.
The figures on clandestine abortions in the developing world were described as ’significant and tragic’, though Dr Camp did say that ‘it is not impossible to lower international rates of illegal abortions substantially.’