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Death from abortions

October 26, 2009
Women protesting in Peru

Women protesting in Peru (Copyright AFP 2009)

I was struck by fellow editor Jessica’s comment on my post last week. She pointed out that my title implied that women only died in countries where all abortions were illegal, when in fact women died or were injured in countries where abortion was legal in certain circumstances, but these procedures were still not readily and safely available. I really appreciate (constructive) reader feedback, and I would like to follow up last week’s article with further clarification.

One thing I mentioned last week and continue to strongly support is the use of contraceptives to reduce the need for abortions. As we know, many women cannot access safe, legal abortions. Contraceptives are more accessible, cheaper, and an easier solution for women. As Jessica pointed out, “illegal” will stigmatize any action, and though not my intention, it certainly does portray those who suffer complications or death from abortions as bandits, instead of desperate women with no other solutions.

And no wonder they are so desperate. In Peru efforts to expand abortion laws to legalize it in cases of rape and fetal deformity have been met with protests and condemnation from the Catholic Church. It is estimated that approximately 376,000 illegal abortions are performed in Peru each year. In Uganda, where approximately 85,000 of the 270,000 induced abortions performed annually end in complications and death, the National Programme Manager for Reproductive Health Dr. Peter Ibembe stated that

“Increased use of contraceptives can reduce maternal mortality and improve women’s health by preventing unwanted and high risk pregnancies, which usually end in clandestine abortions.”

Because I like to end on a positive note, I am happy to report that visits to reproductive health clinics in the UK have risen, especially for women ages 16-19. With education, agency, and safe choices, women can make healthy decisions and avoid the desperate circumstance of unsafe abortion that has resulted in death and injury for so many.

One Comment
  1. Jessica Mack permalink*
    October 28, 2009 6:33 pm

    Thanks for the follow up. The Lancet just published an op-ed where they argue that Millennium Development Goal 5, to improve maternal health, simply cannot be achieved without addressing the specter of unsafe abortion. So, I’m glad you’re posting about, we need to keep talking about it

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