abortion-lawsIf you want to decrease the number of women who seek induced abortions each year, then you should promote the decriminalization of abortion laws in countries where the procedure is illegal and encourage increased access to comprehensive contraceptive choices. Abortion is a highly controversial subject and I am not here to make an argument either way about how the issue relates to religion, when life begins or the other common morality debates that arise when the topic is discussed. Instead, I’ll just present a few facts and what those facts mean to me.

Just because abortion is illegal in a country doesn’t mean that abortions are not performed there. While some may find this paradoxical abortion rates are similar, if not higher, in countries where the procedure is illegal. For example, abortion is prohibited almost entirely in the majority of countries in South America, yet the average abortion rate is 31 per 1000 women on the continent, and only 21 per 1000 in North America (excluding Mexico). Countries like Peru and Uganda – where abortion is prohibited – have abortion rates six times those of Germany and the Netherlands, where abortion is legal and readily accessible.

The medical risk of an abortion varies greatly between regions where the procedure is legal and where it is illegal. Guttmacher Institute estimates that each year 67,000 women die and five million women are hospitalized due to complications of unsafe abortions. On the other hand, the risk of dying from a safe and early abortion is actually significantly less than the chance of dying from pregnancy and childbirth.

Prohibiting access to proper medical care and services is a violation of inherent human rights. Women will seek out abortions whether the law allows them to or not, and when they do society must protect those women by allowing them to obtain safe procedures.

The key to preventing abortions is reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies and giving people contraceptive choices so that they can limit or space pregnancies. The general rule is, as you increase access to contraceptives, abortion rates go down. After the fall of the Soviet Union, former Soviet Union countries were able to obtain a wide range of contraceptive options that were not available before. As a result, the abortion rates in Eastern Europe have decreased by half since 1995.

I think both sides of the abortion argument can agree that the goal should be to reduce the total number of abortions performed each year. We need to make sure that the means to this end protect the lives and health of women and girls everywhere.