A researcher from the Guttmacher Institute, along with researchers from the World Health Organization, just had a study published in The Lancet which showed, safe or unsafe, "women are just as likely to get an abortion in countries where it is outlawed as where it is legal."
The study looked at abortion trends from 1995 to 2003.
Significantly, the abortion rate for 2003 was roughly equal in developed and developing regions—26 and 29, respectively—despite abortion being largely illegal in developing regions. Health consequences, however, vary greatly between the two regions, since abortion is generally safe where it is broadly legal and mostly unsafe where restricted.Now I know some people will look at the other headline: “Abortions Declines Worldwide; Falls Most Where Abortion Is Broadly Legal.” Logically for an abortion rate to fall either there has to be less sex (does anyone think that really happens?) an increase in births, or option “c”—less unintended pregnancies through an increased use of contraceptives.
And that’s pretty much what you’d expect happened where the ratio dropped. Where it declined significant the study attributes not to increased birth rates (which are dropping in Eastern Europe) but to “a trend that corresponds with substantially increased contraceptive use in the region.”
It seems clear to me then that if anti-choice forces wanted there to be less abortions in the U.S. therefore they should be dedicated to keeping it legal. After all Western Europe has a ratio of 12 abortions per 1,000 women whereas in North America (which includes Canada) the ratio is 21 per 1,000. Twelve is less than 21 is it not?
Meanwhile in places where one would think the ratio should be zero due to illegality of the procedure its actually 39 unsafe abortions per 1,000 women in Eastern Africa and 33 per 1,000 in South America.
Some anti-choice people will say “well I think there should be increased contraception, but no choice of abortion.” But that’s not the bargain being offered in America. Name me one anti-abortion group that spends a significant amount of time lobbying for an increase in contraception and sex education. There isn’t any.
The groups like Concerned Women For America and the Family Research Council aren’t suggesting we outlaw abortion but follow the Western European model of sex education and readily available birth control (which is covered under national health insurance...but shhhh...don’t mention that). They don’t want contraception covered by insurance. They don’t want Plan B to be available over the counter. They don’t want comprehensive sex education taught in school.
But I really wish I could understand what they think when they read this study because it’s clear that what lowers the abortion rate isn’t whether its legal or not. After all it’s downright dangerous in places where it is illegal. Doesn’t it say something to the anti-choice types that women are willing to risk death in order to obtain an abortion in those countries?
But unfortunately for them (and women) what reduces abortions is a trade off they aren’t willing to make, increased contraception. They are like a group looking at a war zone and declaring they aren’t going to do anything to mitigate any of the violence in the area—such peace negotiations, or moving women and children to safer areas—until first everyone agrees to end the war. Better the war should go on then less people be hurt through any sort of compromise.
Basically the anti-choice groups must think it doesn't matter when there are more abortions rather than less. They don't care what the number is, as long as its greater than zero. Unfortunately what this study should prove to them is that its NEVER going to be zero. Even when abortions are outlawed and women are killed for having them. The needle never drops to zero.
UPDATE: There's a slightly modified version of this post at Rh Reality Check.