Guttmacher Study: Abortion Rates in Developed Countries Down 41%

By Barbara Hollingsworth | May 16, 2016 | 4:22pm EDT
Protesters in Poland demonstrate on April 3, 2016 against proposed ban on abortion supported by Prime Minister Beata Szydlo. (AP phtoo)

( –  Although the total number of abortions worldwide has increased due to population growth, abortion rates in the developed world have declined 41 percent over the past 25 years and are now at “an all-time low”, according to a new study published May 12th in The Lancet by the Guttmacher Institute and the World Health Organization (WHO).

“Abortion rates have declined significantly since 1990 in the developed world but not in the developing world,” according to the study, which defined the “developed world” as Europe, North America, Australia, New Zealand and Japan.

The rate of abortion per 1,000 women of childbearing age (18-44) in developed countries decreased from 46 in 1990 to 27 in 2014, with the most dramatic decline in Eastern Europe – where it plunged from 88 per 1,000 women to 42 during the same time period. The abortion rate in North America also declined from 25 to 17 abortions per 1,000 women, according to the study.

“These trends suggest that women and couples in the developed world have become more successful at avoiding unintended pregnancies – the cause of most abortions – over the last two decades,” said Guttmacher researcher and lead author Dr. Gilda Sedgh, who attributed the decline to increased use of modern contraceptives in developed countries.

However, a smaller decline in the rate of abortion from 39 to 37 per 1,000 women in developing countries, where nearly 88 percent of all abortions worldwide are performed, was not considered statistically significant.

Abortion rates increased “in Latin America and the Caribbean (from 23% to 32%), South and Central Asia (from 17% to 25%), and Southern Africa (from 17% to 24%),” researchers noted.

Laws prohibiting abortion had “no significant difference” on the abortion rate compared to laws making the procedure available on demand, they also found.

“When countries were grouped according to their abortion laws, the researchers found no significant difference in abortion rates for 2010-2014 between countries where abortion is legal and where it is restricted.

“In countries where the procedure was prohibited altogether or permitted only to save a woman’s life, the abortion rate was 37 per 1,000, and in countries where it was available on request, the abortion rate was 34 per 1,000.”

An estimated quarter of all pregnancies worldwide ended in abortion between 2010 and 2014, which totaled over 56 million abortions per year.

Of those, 73 percent were obtained by married women, according to the study, which was funded by grants from the UK Government, the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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