Not that this should come as a major shock, but a new study just released in current issue of The Lancet reveals that women are just as likely to get an abortion in countries where it is outlawed as they are in countries where abortion is legal. Worldwide, one in five pregnancies ends in abortion. The Guttmacher Institute and the World Health Organization examined abortion trends from 1995 to 2003 and found that abortion rates are virtually equal in rich and poor countries, and that half of all abortions worldwide are unsafe. It seems that the vast majority of abortions (35 million) were obtained in developed countries and nearly 97% of all unsafe abortions took place in poor countries. In order to improve women's health, we need to improve access to safe abortions. Criticism centers around restrictions that often come with donor money. For example, funds from the U.S. government, both domestically and oversees, cannot be used for any health services associated with abortion.
The researchers also found that the total rate of abortions, worldwide, has declined. Interestingly, abortion rates fell most dramatically in Eastern Europe, "a trend that corresponds with substantially increased contraceptive use in the region." Another point to highlight: the rate of abortions declined the most in the regions where abortions are safe and broadly legal.
Sharon Camp, president and chief executive officer of the Guttmacher Institute advises that, "The only way to decrease unsafe abortion is to increase contraception." To be honest, this isn't rocket science: if we want to reduce the number of abortions, our objective should be to lower the rate of unintended pregnancy. As this report confirms, the way this is achieved is simple - increase access to and awareness of birth control. The Bush Administration continues to ignore such pragmatic approaches, pushing for abstinence-only educational programs instead. Hopefully, our elected officials in Washington will start to pay closer attention to this type of documented research. I'm beginning to wondering how many more studies must be done in order to convince President Bush that his approach is not working. One can only ignore the evidence for so long.
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