Do Restrictive Abortion Laws Actually Reduce Abortion Rates?

Andrew S. let us know that The Lancet has just released a study on global trends in abortion, focusing on overall rates, access to safe vs. unsafe abortions, and how the legal status of abortion impacts abortion rates. The results shed some interesting light on the effects of efforts to reduce abortion by outlawing or restricting access to it. Looking at data from 1995 to 2008, the authors found that abortion rates were actually lower in areas of the world with less restrictive abortion laws:

[Via ThinkProgress.]

The Guttmacher Institute provides a full summary of the article. Not surprisingly, the more restrictive abortion laws are, the higher the proportion of unsafe abortions (with Eastern Europe being a significant outlier, with the highest global abortion rates). About half of all abortions are unsafe, leading to the deaths of roughly 47,000 women each year, or 13 percent of all global maternal deaths—almost entirely in developing nations, where restrictive abortion laws are more common and access to contraception and medical care are generally lower.

Take action to help protect women’s right to choose in the U.S.—mark the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade by taking part in the Trust Women Online March and display your support for reproductive rights.

This post originally appeared at Sociological Images, reprinted with permission.


  1. It would be interesting if this article or the page it offers a link to provides a clear reason why Easter Europe is such an outlier. It is disturbing how the countries with stricter abortion laws experience more abortions but the fact that many more abortions under these governments are not done in a safe, reputable manner. I feel as if we cannot take lead as a country until we get meet some of our objectives of choice justice.

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