20 January 2012

One-Third of Abortions in India Unsafe

Despite having a legally permitted system for abortions, it’s revealed that only two in five abortions are safe in India. While the abortion rates have reportedly stalled globally after a long period of decline, India registered 6.5 million abortions in 2008, out of which 66 percent were unsafe.

These findings were revealed in a new report by the World Health Organization along with Guttmacher Institute, New York, which assesses the progress regarding the legality, safety and accessibility of abortion services worldwide over the past decade. South and Central Asian region recorded a total 10.5 million abortions of which India has the major share with 6.5 million abortions taking place in the country. The region also recorded 200 deaths of women for every one lakh abortions.

India allows abortion on four grounds including abortion to save the life of the pregnant woman, abortion on socioeconomic grounds, abortion to protect a woman’s physical or mental health and for socioeconomic reasons. Over 70,000 women die every year due to unsafe abortion, an estimate which has not seen a decline in the last 10 years while other estimate state that eight million women undergo complications related to abortion needing medical treatment, but no more than five million of them receive care.

The number of abortions globally dropped from an estimated 45.5 million in 1995 to 41.6 million in 2003. But the alarming truth is that the rate of safe abortions has fallen between from 20 to 15 per 1,000 women aged 15–44 between 1995 and 2003 while the unsafe abortion rate showed no decline at all - from 15 to 14 per 1,000. The overall abortion rate declined from 35 to 29 per 1,000.

The survey published in the medical journal ‘The Lancet’ shows that the proportion of unsafe procedures has gone up. Contraceptive use, according to the study, has increased in many parts of the world, particularly Latin America and Asia. Many countries with restrictive abortion laws have liberalized their laws. The developing countries where abortion is illegal on many grounds show greater access to safe abortion especially for better-off women.

Nearly all the developing countries have highly restrictive laws expect China and India and it’s revealed that 86 percent of reproductive-age women from the developing world live under highly restrictive abortion laws. But the major problem in such countries, especially India and South Africa where abortion is available on broad grounds, is that they have very limited access to services provided by qualified personnel. The study highlights economic, cultural, informational, procedural and other barriers as the roadblocks in the way of legal abortion services in many developing countries. Access to contraceptive and post-abortion services is often inadequate, partly because of insufficient resources in such countries.