— Originally posted at our old blog, on 29 October 2011, and cross-posted at The Hand Mirror as part of their week of Pro-Choice Postings that ran from 28 October – 4 November 2011–

The annual New Zealand abortion statistics were released yesterday. There are some in this country who would (and do) tell us that these statistics are a shocking reflection of all that is wrong in the world; that they show that women are promiscuous slatterns who have no concern for their actions because they can easily terminate any unwanted pregnancy. That young girls are being sent by their guidance counsellors for secret abortions at an alarming rate. That every abortion represents the loss of the next Steve Jobs.

Well, let’s have a look at some other statistics shall we?

  • Of all of the abortions that occur worldwide each year, almost half are performed by unskilled individuals, in environments that do not meet minimum medical standards. More than 97% of these unsafe abortions occur in developing countries.
  • Ninety-two percent of abortions in developing nations are unsafe.
  • Worldwide, girls aged 15-19 account for one in four unsafe abortions – that adds up to five million each year.
  • Internationally, approximately 40% of women who have a clandestine abortion experience complications that require treatment.
  • An estimated five million women are hospitalised each year for treatment of abortion-related complications, such as haemorrhage and sepsis.
  • Worldwide, an estimated 68 000 women die as a result of complications from unsafe induced abortions every year – about eight per hour. This fatality rate (approximately 367 deaths per 100 000 unsafe abortions) is hundreds of times higher than that for safe, legal abortion in developed countries.
  • It is estimated that every year nearly 5.5 million African women have an unsafe abortion. As many as 36 000 of these women die from the procedure, while millions more experience short- or long- term illness and disability.

(Sources: the Guttmacher Institute and UNFPA)

I don’t know about you, but I know which set of statistics is the one that upsets me. Accessing a legal and safe abortion should not be shameful, it should bear no stigma, and it should not require negotiation of legal hurdles. It should be a basic human right.