Amnesty International Slovenia tweeted via their account on 23 October 2020, claiming that “Abortion restriction does not prevent abortion, it just makes them less safe”. This was found to be true.
Amnesty International Slovenia organization posted on their Twitter account an image with text stating that abortion restriction does not prevent abortion, it just makes them less safe. The relevance of this topic rose again after the ruling of the Polish Constitutional Court, making abortions unconstitutional even in the event of a foetal defect. This event caused a huge backlash in the Polish and international community and was considered a systematic wave of attacks on women’s rights. Due to the current laws on abortion restrictions in their own country, Polish women are forced to seek abortion in neighbouring countries. The Amnesty International Slovenia post is a direct response to the events happening in Poland, as it mentions the case and gives further information on the issues of abortion restrictions. This fact check process was focused on the part of the post regarding abortion restrictions and the safety related to it.
As our contacted experts from the Women’s Lobby of Slovenia and Institute 8th of March did not answer, we based our fact-check mainly on the links provided by Amnesty International Slovenia, the author of the post, but also on articles and websites found during our own research.
We contacted Amnesty International Slovenia, asking about the primary source of their claim. They explained it is a summary of the claim from Amnesty International, which they are a part of and use the same content. They also sent us a link in which it is stated, that 25 million unsafe abortions take place each year, the vast majority taking place in developing countries.
In another link, provided by Amnesty International Slovenia, which was based on a research, carried out by the Guttmacher Institute, Lancet Global Health and WHO, the results show that legal restrictions on abortion do not affect its incidence. In the research it was found that unintended pregnancy rates were generally higher in settings where abortion is restricted than in settings where it is broadly legal. The abortion rate for countries where abortion is restricted was 36 per 1,000 women aged 15–49, and for countries where abortion is broadly legal, the rate was 40.
For example, the abortion rate is 29 to 38 per 1,000 women aged 15–49 in Sub-Saharan Africa, where abortion is illegal in many circumstances. Besides being completely prohibited (for example Egypt, Madagascar, Angola), circumstances include to save the woman’s life, to preserve health, social or economic grounds, and in cases of a rape and incest.
Whereas, in Europe and North America the rate is 15 to 20 per 1,000 women aged 15–49, where abortion is generally permitted on broad grounds. Meaning that abortions usually can be done on request, with exceptions of some countries, where the environment and social or economic factors of the woman are taken into consideration before the abortion. The map above illustrates the various conditions of abortion laws in the world.
A research from 2017 carried out by WHO and other organizations, published in Lancet shows that between years 2010 and 2014, 55.7 million abortions occurred worldwide each year. Out of that, 25.1 million (45.1 %) abortions were not safe, with 24.3 million (97 %) of them carried out in developing countries. World Health Organization defines unsafe abortion as a procedure for termination of a pregnancy done by an individual who does not have the necessary training or in an environment not conforming to minimal medical standards.
The same research states that between continents, with 13.5 million, Asia has the highest number of unsafe abortions, among which South central Asian countries have more than 9 million cases. Africa together had 6.8 million cases of abortion, with 6.2 million of unsafe abortions. Distributed over all the continent and with the highest number of over 2 million cases in Eastern Africa. Latin America had 4.9 million unsafe abortions, with almost 3.5 million in South America, while Europe the number of unsafe abortion (483,000) per year is significantly lower than safe one (3.8 million).
One of the conclusions presented by the research was that in comparison the number of unsafe abortions was notably higher in countries where laws induced strong restrictions on abortions than in countries with less restrictive abortion laws:
“When the distribution of abortion safety was considered by the legal status of abortion, almost 87.5 % in the 57 countries in which abortion was available on request were safe compared with 25.2 % in the 62 countries where abortion was completely banned or allowed only to save the woman’s life or to preserve her physical health.”
In short, it can be said that the statement by Amnesty Slovenia on Twitter that abortion restrictions do not prevent abortions, just make them less safe turned out to be true. The research showed that abortion restrictions do indeed not prevent from abortions but can actually increase the numbers in some cases. The second part of the statement of abortions becoming less safe was also confirmed to be true, as abortions, carried out illegally, were found to be more unsafe.
RESEARCH | ARTICLE © Gabriele Viktoria Skerath, Rebeka Sivka, Valentina Tušek, Nina Smole
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