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More married women than singles have abortions

Nearly 90% of terminations of pregnancies are performed in developing countries such as South Africa and Nigeria.

Abortion rates around the world are about 44% higher among married women than among single women, according to the global sexual and reproductive health advocacy organisation, Guttmacher Institute.

The institute recently released the findings of a study that compared abortion rates in 184 countries between the periods of 1990 to 1994 and 2010 to 2014. Published in The Lancet, the research found that while abortion rates fell significantly in developed countries, this was not true among developing countries.

The majority – 88% – of all abortions now take place in the developing world, said Akinrinola Bankole, who is a lead author of the study and was speaking at the recent Africa Regional Conference on Abortion in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa. The study did not investigate the reasons women terminated pregnancies.

“In Africa, there were about 4.6-million abortion performed every year between 1990 and 1994. In the period between 2010 and 2014 the average number of abortions was 8.3-million every year,” Bankole said.

The study found an increased rate of abortions globally but researchers caution this can partly be explained by the increase in the number of women of reproductive age between the ages of 15 and 44.

Similar research published in The Lancet in 2012 revealed no correlation between restrictive abortion laws and lower abortion rates.

Bankole explained: “For example, Ethiopia has very liberal laws on abortion but the rates of termination of pregnancy is low. Nigeria’s law is more restrictive, but the rate of terminations is high.

“However, in countries that have liberal abortion laws the termination of pregnancies is overwhelmingly safe.” South Africa, for instance, faces high rates of unsafe abortions but these were lower than other African countries.

The institute’s recent study recommends that sexual and reproductive health services such as contraception be made widely available to prevent unwanted and unplanned pregnancies.

In the study, researchers wrote: “The findings suggest that much more investment is needed to meet the demands of the growing population, the increasingly widespread desire for small families and the growing strength of women’s and couple’s motivation to control family size.”

Ina Skosana’s trip to Addis Ababa was sponsored by Ipas, Guttmacher and the African Population and Health Research Centre

Ina Skosana was a health reporter at Bhekisisa.