Abortion Statistics Around the World

Regardless of the fact that abortion is a sensitive issue, it must nevertheless be discussed and its merits brought to the open. Mirroring the words of a student letter to the government in 2015 on abortion, we sometimes ignore, hide or simply refuse to acknowledge the fact that abortion does indeed occur. In ignoring it, we neglect women who need access to healthcare before and after the abortion. We dehumanize women who go through it, and we refuse to acknowledge that there are indeed legitimate reasons for not wanting to have a child. More so, we deliberately forget that abortion primarily affects the woman, in ways that can barely be explained. The world is changing, but change is not an event- it is a process. In light of this, this article highlights some worldwide abortion statistics to paint a clear picture of the status of abortion around the world.

Twenty Five Percent of all Pregnancies End in Abortion

Regardless of legal restrictions on abortions around the world, the Guttmacher Institute reports that about a quarter of all pregnancies are aborted every year. This statistics stands in sharp contrast with the justification that many countries have on restricting access to abortion. In fact, statistics show that out of the twenty-five percent of pregnancies terminated worldwide, a larger portion of that percentage can be attributed to countries that restrict access to abortion.

Abortion Rates Decrease when Countries Legalize It

Stringent abortion laws are justified on grounds that they are a means of reducing abortion incidences. This couldn’t be further from the truth. It has been proved time and again that when countries lessen restrictions on abortion, the rates actually decrease. To highlight this phenomenon we compare Switzerland and Pakistan. In Switzerland, abortion is permitted at the discretion of the woman within the first trimester. Beyond the first trimester, the legal criteria for permissibility are very broad and generally involves risk to the woman’s health or distress should the pregnancy continue. Those in favor of strict abortion laws would intuitively think that the abortion rates in Switzerland are very high. Surprisingly, this is not the case at all. On the contrary, the country has the lowest abortion rates with only five for every one thousand women. In Pakistan where abortion carries a potential jail term if carried out outside grounds of the woman’s health, abortion rates are the highest in the world. In Pakistan, fifty women in a thousand have an abortion! The United States is also a great example. The nation has some of the most liberal abortion laws yet rates remain low at thirteen for every a thousand women. On a worldwide scale, the same phenomenon holds true. In general abortion rates have significantly reduced in the past twenty-five years. In the years 2010-2014 it was reported that on a worldwide scale 35 women carry out an abortion out of every 1000. This figure marked a decreased from the previously recorded ration of 40:1000. The interesting statistic though is that the drop is largely attributed to countries with less stringent abortion laws. Countries with liberal laws saw a drastic drop from 46 women to 27 women for every thousand. This is to be compared with the minuscule drop from 39 women to 36 in countries that have strict abortion laws.

Eastern Europe has the Sharpest Decline in Abortion Rates in Europe

Largely attributed to changing socio-economic conditions in the sub-region following an end to communism a comparative study done from the years 1990- ‘94 and 2010-2014 established that there was a drastic decrease in abortion incidents. The recorded figure the 1990’s study reported abortion rates of 88 for every 1000 women. This is in stark contrast to the figure in the 2010s which stood at a jaw-dropping 42 for every 100 women. An analysis of this statistic highlights a common trend that improved access to contraceptives can reduce unwanted pregnancies thus greatly reducing abortion incidents.

Most European Countries have Less Stringent Abortion Laws

It seems that with the exception of Malta, the Vatican City, Andorra, and Liechtenstein,  many European countries permit abortion in one way or another. Most restrict abortion for medical reasons, both physical and mental. In many neighboring countries, a physician’s consent is also required beyond 10-12 weeks of pregnancy. Ireland recently joined the ranks of countries with less stringent abortion laws having amended its laws in 2018.

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