Abortion is a considerably controversial topic in many countries of the world. The issue spans economic, political, ethical and religious lines and has and is still being greatly debated around the world. In light of this, it is important that we understand the truth about it. Amidst the vast sea of disinformation on abortion, it is important that you arm yourself with the truth. To achieve consensus on abortion, we must first seek to objectively understand it and to do so, we must know the hard facts about it. Below are some important facts you should know about abortion in order to understand the issue.
Abortion is More Common than You Think
Despite being taboo in some countries, abortion does commonly occur. In fact, it is more common that one would think. Statistics from Amnesty International show that each year twenty-five percent of all pregnancies are aborted. This statistic remains true regardless of whether the abortion has been made legal in a certain jurisdiction or not. In fact, ironically, countries that ban abortion have higher abortion rates than those that permit it. According to a study by the Guttmacher Institute, in countries that completely ban abortion or severely restrict it, the abortion rate amounts to 37 in every 1000 pregnancies. In contrast in countries that allow for abortion, the figure stands at 34 for every 1000 pregnancies. This goes to show that if anything, legally restricting abortion has no effect on its occurrence.
Moreover, when access to medical care is provided, abortion is a very safe procedure. In fact, it may be safer than giving birth! On the contrary, however, in countries that severely restrict abortion, it may become fatal. Currently, around twenty-two million abortions occur in risky circumstances. Alarmingly, according to the World Health Organization, unsafe abortions are the third most common cause of maternal fatalities!
Legal Penalization of Abortion Increases Abortion Fatalities
As seen from the Guttmacher Institute’s statistics above, the legal restriction of abortion has no effect on its prevalence. More so, the numbers show that in countries where abortion is severely restricted the practice is even more prevalent. Effects of the criminalization of abortion are all negative, the saddest of which is the increased fatalities due to unsafe abortion.
When states ban abortion, they tie the hands of doctors who would want to provide safe procedures. Moreso, in a bid to comply with the countries’ laws, doctors may be tempted to completely abandon safe abortion procedures even in countries where abortion is permitted in certain circumstances. They do this as a risk avoidance mechanism.
Legal restriction of Abortion, therefore, forces pregnant women to seek unsafe and life-threatening options, thus ultimately leading to abortion becoming the third most common cause of maternal fatalities.
Abortion Rates Can Be Lessened Through Other Means
Criminalization of abortion has never been a means to curb it. In fact, it is extremely ineffective. Simple measures like ensuring access to contraceptives and sex-education amongst the youth are better ways of preventing abortion. To understand the efficacy of these measures, one first needs to realize that abortions do not often occur out of the risk to the life of the mother or fetal abnormalities. In many instances, the underlying reasons are often socio-economic. Research from the World Health Organization shows that in countries where there is no adequate access to contraceptives, abortion rates are significantly higher.
The Tide is Changing
Many countries are reforming their abortion laws to make them less discriminative. Change is not an event but a process. Mirroring this fact, within the past sixty years more than thirty-five countries have eased their legal restrictions on abortion. Our own Ireland is one such nation. In 2018, the people voted against the constitutional ban on abortion, a landmark event on the fight for safe access to abortion.
Nevertheless, more still needs to be done. Many countries such as Malta, the Vatican, and Nicaragua still completely ban abortion. Studies show that forty percent of all fertile women reside in such countries.
Moreover, even in countries where abortion is legal or less restricted, this doesn’t make it accessible. Social stigma against abortion has a great effect on the accessibility of safe abortion. Further, still, cost is also a major issue. In some instances, safe abortion may be so expensive that the affected turn to unsafe methods as a cheaper alternative. The good news is that these often hidden factors are now being brought to light. In fact, the World Health Organisation has criteria enabling states to shed light on some of these problems.