The Guttmacher Institute issued a report of a global survey, which found that 70,000 women die annually from unsafe abortions. More than half the deaths are in sub-Saharan Africa, which is the region with the lowest rates of contraceptive use and the highest rates of pregnancies that are unintended.
Sharon Camp, who is president of the Institute said that in almost all of the developed world abortion is safe and legal, but that in much of the developing world it is highly restricted, and that unsafe abortion practices are common. The report calls for easing of abortion laws in developing countries. This stance has been criticized by Deirdre McQuade, a policy director with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities.
The Guttmacher Institute has estimated that the number of abortions worldwide fell from 45.5 million in 1995 to 41.6 million in 2003.
The report says that the main reason for that decline is that the portion of married women using contraception increased from 54 percent in 1990 to 63 percent in 2003. This was due to the increase in availability of contraceptives and to the changing of social mores. Contraceptive use has increased in major regions, but not in Africa, where only 28 percent of married women use them.
On a global scale abortion rates are declining, according to the report. But 40 percent of the world’s women live in countries where the abortion laws are very restrictive. All of those countries are in the developing world; 92 percent are in African and 97 percent are in Latin America.
It is very interesting to note that this survey found that abortion occurs at about the same rates in countries where it happens to be legal, but extremely restrictive. The main difference is the high number of deaths and medical complications resulting from clandestine abortions in the restrictive countries.
Camp reiterates a widely known fact, which happens to be that legal restrictions do not stop women from having abortions; these restrictions just make the procedure dangerous. Camp says, “Too many women are maimed or killed each year because they lack legal abortion access.”