Home >Science >Health >Half of pregnancies during 2015-19 unintended, abortions highest in poor nations
In countries with more legal restrictions for accessing abortion care, women faced significantly higher rates of unintended pregnancies. (Photo: iStock)
In countries with more legal restrictions for accessing abortion care, women faced significantly higher rates of unintended pregnancies. (Photo: iStock)

Half of pregnancies during 2015-19 unintended, abortions highest in poor nations

  • Women in the poorest countries were nearly three times as likely to face unintended pregnancies as those in the wealthiest countries, revealing inequities in access to sexual and reproductive health care

NEW DELHI: Almost half of pregnancies between 2015 and 2019, worldwide, were unintended, according to a study published in the Lancet Global Health journal. Abortion rates were the highest in low-income countries with most legal restrictions to abortion care, the study pointed out.

The study was a collaboration of Guttmacher Institute and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), UNICEF, World Health Organization (WHO) and World Bank Special Programme of Research, Development and Research Training in Human Reproduction.

The researchers looked at the incidence of unintended pregnancy and abortion from 1990 to 2019.

Abortion rates were also higher in countries with legal restrictions on the procedure.

In high-income countries where abortion is broadly legal--available on request or on broad socioeconomic grounds--there were 11 such terminations per 1,000 women of reproductive age compared with 32 abortions per 1,000 in high-income countries with legal restrictions to the procedure, the study found.

The study highlighted that 61% of unintended pregnancies--73.3 million--ended in abortion between 2015 and 2019, corresponding to a global rate of 39 per 1,000 women aged 15–49.

Abortion rates and trends varied across regions. The most significant decline was in Europe and North America, where it fell by 63% between the periods 1990–1994 and 2015–2019.

"The substantial declines in unintended pregnancies and in abortion rates in some regions of the world is welcome news, reflecting important gains in access to effective, safe, acceptable and affordable sexual and reproductive health services," said Bela Ganatra, head of Preventing Unsafe Abortion Unit and scientist at HRP.

But the progress has not been uniform. Women in the poorest countries were nearly three times as likely to face unintended pregnancies as those in the wealthiest countries, revealing major and persistent inequities in access to sexual and reproductive health care.

In countries with more legal restrictions for accessing abortion care, women faced significantly higher rates of unintended pregnancies. “This suggests they are less able to access contraception alongside broader sexual and reproductive health services for preventing unintended pregnancies – likely explaining the higher number of abortions in these countries," the study said.

"Imposing legal restrictions to prevent or impede access to abortion does not reduce the number of individuals seeking out those services, but it certainly does increase the risk of unnecessary physical and emotional harm, and may result in legal sanctions and financial hardship as well," said Zara Ahmed, associate director, Federal Issues at Guttmacher.

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