Data: Safe, Legal, and Rare


Abortion rates are lowest in countries where abortions are easiest to get, according to a study in the October 13 issue of the British medical journal The Lancet. Researchers at the Guttmacher Institute and the World Health Organization looked at the yearly number of abortions per 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 44. Drawing on national surveys and other studies, they found the rates were higher in regions where the procedure is restricted, such as Africa, Latin America, and Asia. In places where abortions are easier to obtain, such as Western Europe and North America, the rates were lower.

One reason for lower abortion rates in developed countries appears to be the wider availability of contraception. The total number of abortions worldwide dropped from 46 million in 1995 to 42 million in 2003. Almost half of all abortions in 2003 were unsafe, the study found, and 97 percent of those occurred in developing countries where the procedure is highly restricted.