According to the Guttmacher Institute, complications from unsafe abortions in the developing world contribute to 47,000 preventable deaths each year. The advocacy organization points out that reducing the number of unsafe abortion procedures worldwide is a public health imperative, since every woman should have the right to make safe reproductive choices for herself without risking her life.
In order to raise awareness about the essential need for safer abortion services, the Guttmacher Institute released a video highlighting the disparity between access to reproductive rights across the globe, as well as the commonalities between women who seek abortions:
In all parts of the world, women have abortions for similar reasons, often for the very same reasons that woman who have access to modern contraception choose to use birth control. Women want to be able to delay having children if they are financially unable to care for a child or additional children, if they are not in a stable relationship with a partner who can help them care for a child, or if they still need to finish their education. But contraception isn’t readily available in many of the countries where women are dying from botched abortion procedures. Guttmacher estimates that about 222 million women in the developing world are trying to avoid pregnancy, but aren’t using a modern form of contraception, putting themselves at risk for an unintended pregnancy and an unsafe abortion.
On the other hand, Guttmacher points out that the legality of abortion — unlike access to contraception — has absolutely no correlation to the abortion rate, since women have abortion procedures regardless of the law. In fact, some of the highest abortion rates in the world are in countries in Latin America and Africa, in places where abortion is highly restricted but where women have many unintended pregnancies because they lack adequate access to contraceptive services. On the other hand, some of the lowest abortion rates are in countries in western Europe, where modern contraceptives are more readily available and where abortion is safe, legal, and accessible.
Expanding access to contraception, rather than restricting abortion, will ultimately save women’s lives. As the video puts it, “It is the basic right of every woman to decide whether and when to have a child without having to put her health or her life at risk. It is time for all countries to make that right a reality.”