The World Health Organization (WHO) abortion report states that the total number of abortions per year in developing countries has remained the same for the past 25 years.
At the same time the rate of abortions in developed countries has declined by over 40%. However the WHO says that almost one in four pregnancies around the world ends in abortion.
Abortion rates falling in developed countries
According to a recent study by the WHO and the Guttmacher Institute, some 90% of these abortions occur in developing countries where people have less access to contraceptives and family planning.
Both abortion and birth rates have continued to fall in the United States. Last year a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found the number of abortions was around the same as fetal loss, and has decreased by 50% since the mid 1970s.
The latest study found that better access to contraceptives is responsible for a significant proportion of the drop in abortions in developed countries. In contrast 80% of unintended pregnancies in developing countries were linked to poor access to contraceptives.
Women not deterred by anti-abortion laws
According to the study the lack of access to services does not deter women from terminating their pregnancies. This means that they resort to unsanctioned procedures if abortion is officially illegal.
“These trends suggest that women and couples in the developed world have become more successful at avoiding unintended pregnancies — the cause of most abortions — over the last two decades,” Dr. Gilda Sedgh, a researcher at the Guttmacher Institute, said in a press release. “High abortion rates are directly correlated to high levels of unmet contraceptive need. Our findings indicate that in many developing regions, women lack the contraceptive services they need and are unable to prevent pregnancies they do not want to have.”
The study was published in The Lancet and used data from government agencies, international sources and nationally representative studies. The data was used to get an idea of abortion rates and compare them to the needs of communities as well as the services available in certain places.
From 2010 to 2014 there were an estimated 35 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44 around the world. That is down from 40 per 1,000 from 1990-1994.
There may have been a decrease in abortion rates, but the total number went up from 50.4 million in the early 1990s to 56.3 million from 2010-2014. Rates declined from 46 abortions per 1,000 women to 27 per 1,000 in the past 25 years in developed countries.
Latin America shows highest abortion rates in the world
In developing countries the number fell from 39 per 1,000 to 37 per 1,000. This change is considered to be statistically insignificant. However it was found that abortion rates were higher in places where abortion was more tightly controlled and there was less access to contraceptives.
Latin America has some of the highest abortion rates in the world, as well as some of the strictest controls on abortion. 32% of pregnancies were terminated in the region.
Restricting abotion by law does not seem to reduce rates. 37 per 1,000 women have abortions in countries where it is heavily restricted, whereas 34 per 1,000 have one in countries where it is legal.
Researchers say that most countries are attempting to use contraceptives to influence reproductive behavior rather than abortion.
“Estimates of the proportion of abortions that are unsafe are under development but we already know nearly 300 million dollars are spent each year on treating the complications from unsafe abortions,” said Dr. Bela Ganatra, a scientist at the WHO, said in a press release.
“The high rates of abortion seen in our study also provide further evidence of the need to improve and expand access to effective contraceptive services. Investing in modern contraceptive methods would be far less costly to women and society than having unwanted pregnancies and unsafe abortions.”