CEO highlights importance of family planning in reducing unsafe abortion

Commenting on research released today by the Guttmacher Institute on global trends in abortion, Marie Stopes International’s CEO Dana Hovig reaffirmed the importance of family planning in lowering the number of unsafe abortions across world.

“We welcome this important new research. It’s imperative that we continue to measure global abortion and unsafe abortion trends, not least so we can monitor where there may be gaps in contraception coverage.

“The research confirms what we know as one of the world’s leading providers of sexual and reproductive healthcare: women in developing countries are disproportionately affected by the consequences of unsafe abortion due to lack of access to contraception and scarce access to safe, legal abortion services, a situation which cannot be allowed to continue.

“The study also highlights an issue that has long concerned us: namely, that in several countries where safe, legal abortion services are available, such as Zambia and South Africa, women are still turning to unsafe providers because of stigma or lack of knowledge about the safe services on offer.

“Unsafe abortion is entirely preventable, yet so many women have one each year, resulting in 47,000 maternal deaths – 13% of all maternal deaths globally. Organisations such as Marie Stopes International must continue to work in partnership with governments, donors, advocates and other service providers to make sure women all over the world are able to make choices around their reproductive health irrespective of where they live.

“We’d also draw attention to the study’s strong evidence that liberal abortion laws often go hand in hand with good access to contraception and low abortion rates, rather than the opposite as some critics would have us believe. The research tells us that whatever the law, women will choose to end their pregnancy if that’s what they want to do, and providing safe and legal services which allow them to do this is imperative in ending the scourge of unsafe abortion.

“As this research notes, global abortion rates have remained fairly stable between 2003 and 2008, after a previous decline. It links this plateau to a lack of access to contraception, and we call on global leaders to recognise the urgency of meeting the needs of the 215 million women who want, but cannot access contraception. Family planning is one of the most cost effective health interventions and wherever we work, we see women desperate for these services. We’re pleased that many donors have begun to recognise the need for family planning, but more financial investment is needed.”

The research is available for download from the Guttmacher Institute’s website.