A woman’s right

AROUND 40% of women live in countries where abortion is severely restricted by law, a figure that has changed little in a decade. Such laws do not prevent abortion, but they do mean that the procedures are more often unsafe (for example carried out by an unskilled practitioner in unhygienic conditions), according to a report by the Guttmacher Institute, a research group. Some of the highest abortion rates are in Latin America, where abortion is all but outlawed. Nearly all abortions in Africa are unsafe, despite the liberalisation of laws in South Africa in 1997. The most recent data available, for 2003, show that a woman is as likely to have an abortion in regions where it is broadly legal as in regions where it is highly restricted. Globally the abortion rate has fallen since 1995 mainly through a reduction in safe abortions. Unintended pregnancies have also fallen, from 69 per 1,000 women in 1995 to 55 per 1,000 in 2008, as contraception use has increased.