Worldwide Abortion Rates Down

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Oct. 12, 2007 — Four million fewer abortions were performed worldwide in2003 than in 1995, according to a new study published in The Lancet.

The study includes international abortion statistics from 1995 and 2003, themost recent year for which abortion statistics are available in manycountries.

Findings include:

  • There were 42 million abortions in 2003, down from 46 million in 1995.
  • The 2003 global abortion rate was 29 per 1,000 women aged 15-44, down from35 per 1,000 in 1995.
  • The 2003 abortion rate in the U.S. and Canada was 21 per 1,000 women.
  • Western Europe had the lowest abortion rate.
  • Eastern Europe had the highest abortion rate.
  • Nearly half (48%) of all abortions in 2003 were unsafe, and most unsafeabortions (97%) were in developing countries.

The team of researchers who worked on the study included two experts fromthe World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland, and three from theGuttmacher Institute in New York, which focuses on sexual and reproductivehealth.

They used the WHO’s definition of unsafe abortions, which include “anyprocedure to terminate an unintended pregnancy done either by people lackingthe necessary skills or in an environment that does not conform to minimalmedical standards, or both.”

Unsafe abortions included abortions in countries with “restrictiveabortion laws, as well as abortions that do not meet legal requirements incountries with less restrictive laws,” write the Guttmacher Institute’sGilda Sedgh, ScD, and colleagues.

Based on the findings, Sedgh’s team writes that “unsafe and safeabortions correspond in large part with illegal and legal abortions,respectively.”

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