Friday, June 01, 2007

World Abortion Statistics

I remember reading about abortion statistics in the US a while back and realizing that for an issue that is so politically charged and always in the news, I had absolutely no clue as to its prevalence.

I ran across this article on abortion worldwide in The Economist, and realized I knew very little about the state of abortion across the planet.

How much do you know about abortion worldwide? Here are four questions to test your knowledge.

First question: what percentage of people on Earth live in a country where abortion is legal?

According to the New York-based Centre for Reproductive Rights, over 60% of the world's 6.5 billion people now live in countries where abortion is generally allowed. Just a quarter live in states where it is generally banned.
Second question: how many abortions take place each year, and how many of them are illegal?
Of a total of 46m abortions thought to be carried out each year (more than one in four pregnancies are terminated), some 20m are illegal, resulting in the death of around 70,000 women a year, according to the World Health Organisation.
Third question: which country has the highest rate of abortions?
Although China reports 7m abortions a year (the real figure is much higher), it does not have the world's highest rate. That place is held by Romania, where some three-quarters of pregnancies are terminated (the same ratio as in New York City and Shanghai). Russia, the first country to allow abortion (in 1920), comes second with two in three pregnancies terminated. Rates are high across the former Soviet block, with the termination of more than one in two pregnancies in most countries.
I didn't know that about Romania and it is 180 degrees from life under Ceausescu when additional taxes were levied on childless individuals over twenty-five years of age. The statistic on Russia didn't surprise me, as I have blogged before about the health mess that Russia has become.

And I believe the statistic on NYC is wrong. It appears to be closer to 50% than 75%, and that is also likely too high as people from out of town come to the city to have the abortions performed.

Fourth question: what is the rate of abortion in Western countries?
In the United States, Australia, Canada, Britain and most of the rest of western Europe, around 15-25% of pregnancies are terminated.
When I took a look at the map of where abortion is legal, I couldn't help but notice that the richer a country is, the more likely that abortion is legal. Makes me wonder if legalized abortion makes economies stronger, or if strong economies makes legalized abortion more likely (or maybe a little of both).

Like drugs, I think the best public policy for abortion is for it to be safe, legal and rare.

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