The New Scientist has an interesting article this week all about abortion, which seems to be back in the news in a big way today. You can’t read it all online unless you have a subscription, but the nub of it is:
Tellingly, the number of abortions fell almost exclusively in rich countries where terminating a pregnancy is both legal and safe. In poorer countries, where access to abortion is often restricted or illegal, there has been very little progress in reducing the number of abortions, says Shah.
In such countries, women are prepared to endanger their lives to terminate a pregnancy (see “By any means available”). In Africa, for example, where access to safe, legal abortions is almost non-existent, there were 29 abortions per 1000 women of childbearing age in 2003. In Europe, where abortion is widely available and legal (with the exception of Poland and Ireland), the rate was almost identical, at 28.
Even in eastern Europe, abortion rates have halved from 90 abortions per 1000 women in 1995*, to 44 per 1000 in 2003 – thanks almost entirely to the wider availability of effective contraceptives. “We now have a very powerful body of data from multiple countries showing a connection between the rise in contraception availability and a decline in abortions,” says Camp.
Bottom line: making abortion illegal doesn’t stop it, it just makes it more dangerous. If you want to reduce the abortion rate, encourage greater use of contraception. But of course the religious right don’t like that.
And if you want to reduce the number of late abortions, scrap the two referrals rule. But again, the religious right don’t like that either.
Ultimately, if your concern is reducing harm, this really is a no-brainer. If your agenda is ideological purity on the other hand…
* If you refer back to the original text, you will see that it says 2005, which makes no sense. However the study it is referring to compares the 1995 situation with 2003, so the meaning is clear.