Incidence and Recent Trends in Legal Abortion Worldwide

Gilda Sedgh, Guttmacher Institute
Stanley K. Henshaw, Guttmacher Institute
Susheela D. Singh, Guttmacher Institute
Alyssa Tartaglione, Guttmacher Institute

We present official statistics and reports of legal abortion incidence in 2008 for more than 60 countries with liberal abortion laws, and we assess trends in incidence where possible. The dramatic declines in incidence before 2003 in the former Soviet countries have continued, but the pace of decline has slowed. The lowest legal abortion rates were in Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, and the Netherlands. The highest reported rates were in Azerbaijan and Armenia – both countries with incomplete reporting. The abortion rate in the United States remains higher than in many Western European countries. Since 2003, the abortion rate has declined in more than half of the countries for which trends could be assessed. In many parts of the world, our ability to observe abortion levels is increasingly compromised as health care services have shifted to the private sector and the use of medication abortion has increased.

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Presented in Session 111: Abortion II