14 October 2009

Preventing Abortion : Contraception More Successful than Laws

Sign in Katmandu, Nepal: "Safe Abortion Service avbailable. From 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday to Friday. Charge 1,000 rupees." The hospital is run by the government. Photo by Binod Joshi / AP.

Guttmacher survey of 197 countries:
Making abortion illegal doesn't mean fewer abortions
The way to lower (and someday hopefully eliminate) abortion is to teach real sex education and encourage the use of contraceptives.
By Ted McLaughlin / The Rag Blog / October 14, 2009

Fundamentalists live in a very simple world. They believe they can prevent teens from having sex by refusing to provide them with real sex education. They also believe they can prevent abortions by simply banning legal abortions.

It has recently been shown that teaching "abstinence only" does not prevent teen sex, but it does increase the number of teen pregnancies by preventing the use of contraceptive methods. Now there is a new study that shows banning abortions does not decrease the number of abortions.

The Guttmacher Institute did a survey of 197 countries regarding abortion. They found "roughly equal rates" of women seeking abortions in both countries with legal abortion and countries that had banned abortions. In other words, banning abortion not only didn't eliminate abortions, it didn't even lower the number of abortions.

In countries without legal abortion, women just go to a country where it is legal (as Irish women go to Europe) or they seek illegal (and dangerous) abortions (as women in Africa and South America do). In fact, illegal abortions kill at least 70,000 women each year -- leaving nearly a quarter of a million children without mothers. Another 5 million women develop serious complications.

Oddly enough, there is a proven way to lower the rate of abortions -- contraception. The Guttmacher Institute found that there were 45.5 million abortions in 1995. By 2003, that number had dropped to 41.6 million in spite of an increase in population. The change is due to a wider use of contraceptive methods.

Just look at what contraception has done in the Netherlands -- where abortion is legal and contraceptive use is encouraged and taught. Worldwide, the abortion rate is about 29 per 1000 people, but in the Netherlands it is only 10 per 1000 people. Young people there commonly use two forms of contraception, and that has radically lowered the abortion rate.

The facts are clear. If you hate abortion and want to eliminate it, banning abortion will not do it. That will only kill and seriously injure many women. The way to lower (and someday hopefully eliminate) abortion is to teach real sex education and encourage the use of contraceptives.

No one likes abortion. It just can't be eliminated by simplistic thinking or laws.

[Rag Blog contributor Ted McLaughlin also posts at jobsanger.]

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