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Laws’ impact on abortion rate doubted

The largest, most comprehensive global study of abortion ever undertaken has concluded that abortion rates are similar in countries where it is legal and those where it is not, suggesting that outlawing the procedure does little to deter women.

Moreover, the authors found that abortion was a very safe procedure for women in countries where it is legal, but extremely dangerous for women in countries where it is outlawed and performed underground. The procedure accounts for 13% of deaths during pregnancy and childbirth, globally.

The massive survey, a collaboration between scientists from the World Health Organization in Geneva and the Alan Guttmacher Institute in New York, is being published today in the journal The Lancet. „We now have a global picture of induced abortion in the world, covering both countries where it is legal and countries where laws are very restrictive,” said Paul Van Look, director of the WHO department of reproductive health and research, in an interview.

„What we see is that the law does not influence a woman’s decision to have an abortion. If there’s an unplanned pregnancy it does not matter if the law is restrictive or liberal.” But the legal status of abortion did dramatically affect the dangers involved, the scientists said.

Van Look said: „Generally where abortion is legal it will be provided in a safe manner. And the opposite is also true: Where it is illegal it is likely to be unsafe, performed under unsafe conditions by poorly trained providers.” (Read more )