Abortions: Visualizing the Data on One of the Most Fraught Topics in Women’s Health Care
Abortions are one of the most common medical procedures performed globally, with 56 million having taken place between 2010 and 2014. However, nearly 50% were unsafe, in that the operations occurred in unsafe conditions and/or by an untrained person. Of these, one in every seven abortions used outdated methods such as ingesting caustic substances or inserting foreign bodies into a woman’s uterus vaginally.
As a result, seven million women across the world are hospitalized annually for complications resulting from unsafe abortions, such as hemorrhaging and contracting infections — making unsafe abortions the third leading cause of maternal death. This very resolvable obstacle becomes all the more pressing when seen against the statistics on the prevalence of abortions, and the consequences of not granting women the autonomy to have them, both in India and across the world.
Data for this story was mined from the World Health Organization’s 2017 report on abortions, globally; The Lancet’s 2018 report on abortion incidence in India; and The Guttmacher Institute’s 2018 report on abortions in six Indian states.
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The bottom line to the contested debate that abortions have become is this: the provision of safe abortion services is not just about improving maternal health. It is about principles — a woman should have the absolute reproductive and legal right to decide whether or not she wants to reproduce, period. And if women aren’t given this right, they will find a way to exercise it. The only difference will be the locations (back-alley clinics), the methods (coat hangers) and the stakes — their health and lives.