[Cross-posted from the American Journal of Bioethics blog...]
In what my friend Mickey would call "whattya know, water is wet" news, a new study released in The Lancet's current issue, which focuses on the health of women and mothers worldwide, shows that abortion rates have declined worldwide. According to the Guttmacher Institute, one of the authors of the report, abortion rates fell most significantly in Eastern Europe, "a trend that corresponds with substantially increased contraceptive use in the region." Also of note is that the abortion rate fell the most in the regions where abortions are safe and broadly legal.
When thinking of maternal health, especially in developing countries, abortions must be taken into account. Dr. Paul F.A. Van Look, the director of WHO’s Department of Reproductive Health and Research, says that "nearly half of all induced abortions are unsafe, putting the lives and health of women at major risk. Each year, about 70,000 women die due to unsafe abortion and an additional five million suffer permanent or temporary disability."
Echoing Dr. Sharon Camp, we know that the best way to reduce abortion is to reduce unwanted pregnancies, which is easiest done by the simple method of increasing access to contraception. And the only way to improve the health of women who do have abortions is to make them safe, and provided by a skilled professional.