Publication: Contraceptive Use, Fertility, and Unsafe Abortion in Developing Countries

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1473-0782 (Electronic) 1362-5187 (Linking)
Ahman, E. L.
Shah, I. H.
OBJECTIVES: Despite a substantial rise in contraceptive use around the world, unplanned pregnancies and induced abortion continue to occur. Each year an estimated 19 million abortions are carried out outside the legal system, often by unskilled practitioners or under unhygienic conditions. This paper explores the relationship between contraceptive prevalence and unsafe abortion in developing regions with different levels of fertility. These relationships manifest the extent to which the desire to regulate fertility is addressed by contraception or by unsafe abortion, where access to safe abortion is legally restricted. METHODS: Secondary analysis of estimates of unsafe abortion, total fertility rate and contraceptive prevalence, by geographical regions. RESULTS: High levels of unsafe abortion persist even where contraceptive prevalence is increasing and fertility is declining. It appears that a high dependence on sterilization for limiting family size may by be preceded by reliance on unsafe abortion, where abortion is restricted, for birth spacing. CONCLUSIONS: The reliance on unsafe abortion could be reduced during fertility transition by improving women's access to reversible contraceptives for spacing births as well as to sterilization for terminating childbearing. Expanding contraceptive choices and a balanced method mix can serve as an effective strategy to prevent unsafe abortion where reliance on sterilization to limit childbearing is not preceded by the use of reversible modern methods for spacing and where access to safe abortion is restricted by law. The intriguing association between contraceptive method choice and the incidence of unsafe abortion deserves further exploration.
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