Around 73 million abortions per year took place globally between 2015-2019, representing an 18% increase since 1990 in the rate of unintended pregnancies that ended in termination, according to a study conducted by the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute, the United Nations, and World Health Organization. The groups examined data from more than 100 countries to find a global annual rate of 39 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-49 years.
Overall, the world saw 121 million unintended pregnancies between 2015-2019 with 61%, or 73 million, ending in termination per year, according to the study. That translates into 365 million abortions across a five-year period.
In response to the study, Guttmacher promoted abortion and contraception. It concluded that abortion increased more quickly in countries that banned the procedure. Senior researcher Jonathan Bearak reportedly said, “If you look at countries where abortion is broadly legal, in the early ‘90s, 60% of unintended pregnancies ended in abortion, and that’s now 70%. In countries where abortion is restricted, it was 36% in the early ‘90s, and now it’s 50%. That’s a 14-point increase in contrast to a 10-point increase.”
He added that “we’ve seen the percent unintended pregnancies ending in abortion has increased globally in general. But it’s increased the most amongst the countries that are restricting or completely prohibiting abortion.”
But Dr. Michael New, a research associate at the pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute, argues that the data actually makes the case for pro-life laws. “This study adds to the body of data which shows that an important reason behind the long-term decline in the U.S. abortion rate is because a higher percentage of unintended pregnancies are being carried to term,” he told Live Action News.
Referring to U.S.-specific data, New said, “Data from the study indicat[es] 51% of unintended pregnancies between 1990 and 1994 were aborted. That figure fell to 34% between 2015 and 2019.” He also took issue with Guttmacher’s analysis of the international data, saying that “most of countries with pro-life laws in place are located in Africa, South America, and the Middle East. These countries often have high poverty rates and a higher incidence of other social pathologies that might increase the demand for abortion.”
New added that the study focused on pro-life countries that were relatively undeveloped. “Nearly every country in the Guttmacher/WHO dataset that is restricting abortion is a developing country,” he said. “I think there are legitimate questions about the reliability of data from these countries. These countries also have higher poverty rates and higher incidence of other pathologies that might increase the perceived need for abortion.”
He added, “There are six developed countries that have substantive legal protections for preborn children in place (Andorra, Malta, Monaco, San Marino, Lichtenstein, Poland) However, the only developed country with protections for preborn children that is included in the dataset is Poland. Ireland had legal protections for preborn children in place until 2018. Data from Ireland is not included in the dataset either.”
According to New, “Poland provides a good example of how legal protections of preborn children can be effective. Pro-life laws were passed in Poland in both 1990 and 1993. The 1993 law only allowed for abortion in cases of rape, incest, severe fetal deformity, or serious threat to the health or life of the pregnant women. Since the early 1990s, the abortion rate in Poland has fallen by 76 percent. Similarly, the percentage of unintended pregnancies that are aborted fell from approximately 64 percent to 37 percent.”
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