This is what happened after some countries legalized abortion

Contrary to popular belief, the legalization of this procedure appears to decrease the number of long-term abortions.

Demonstration for the legalization of abortion

The issue of abortion came back into focus after the Argentine Senate approved its legalization for free during the first 14 weeks of pregnancy. / Photo: Wikimedia-Yamila Maribel

LatinAmerican Post| Juan Manuel Bacallado

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Leer en español: ¿Y luego? Lo que ha sucedido en los países después de legalizar el aborto

The issue of abortion came back into focus after the Argentine Senate approved its legalization for free during the first 14 weeks of pregnancy. This fact reopened the debate on social networks in the region, which were filled with messages celebrating the decision while others showed their disagreement. With Argentina, there are already 68 countries in the world where abortion is a right as long as it is carried out in a gestation time of less than 12 or 14 weeks, according to Ámbito. In Latin America, only in Uruguay, Guyana, French Guyana, Cuba and Puerto Rico, in addition to Argentina, is abortion allowed under any circumstance, the latter being the Latin American nation with the largest population to approve it.

Argentina legaliza el aborto

El Senado aprueba la interrupción legal del embarazo hasta la semana 14 por 38 votos a favor, 29 en contra y una abstención.

En 1984 ya se pidió el aborto legal, pero no ha sido hasta hoy, casi 40 años después, cuando se ha aprobado en el país. pic.twitter.com/WKVxV2TA7Z

— ES.DECIR (@esdecirdiario) December 30, 2020

However, there is a belief that the approval of abortion has as a consequence a drastic increase in the practice, however, the Chequeado media reports that despite the existence of an increase in the number of abortions after its legalization, this will decrease over the years to the point of yielding lower figures than when abortion was not allowed, so it is considered that in the long term this decision helps to reduce the interruptions of pregnancies under any circumstance.

Similarly, the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) assures that it is difficult to compare abortion figures before and after decriminalization, since prior to legalization it is not possible to obtain precise figures because the practice is clandestine. However, there are various NGOs and foundations that have been working on reports with statistical data on illegal abortions.

What happened in Uruguay?

An example from the region is Uruguay, where abortion was legalized in 2012 within 12 weeks of gestation and under compliance with various procedures and professional analyzes in health centers. According to Sputnik News, in 2014 abortion figures increased by 20% compared to 2013, the year in which the Voluntary Termination of Pregnancy law began to be applied, the following years the figure continued to increase between 1.1% and 9.6%. It would not be until 2019 in which the abortion rate was reduced by 1.5%, however, the official numbers of abortions after decriminalization are around 10,000  per year, while between 1995 and 2002 the Uruguayan Government estimated about 33,000 annual clandestine abortions. 

 Also read: Overview of abortion in Latin America

Another trend generated as a result of the legalization of abortion in Uruguay, according to the BBC, consists in the reduction of maternal mortality, whose main cause was clandestine abortions. Currently, Uruguay is the second country in America -after Canada- with the lowest maternal mortality rate, although the Government had been implementing measures to reduce this trend for years before approving abortion, but the reduction was consolidated after its decriminalization.

Another example: Spain

In 2010, the European country legalized abortion in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy and up to 22 weeks if the life of the woman or the fetus is at serious risk. The year after this law came into force, the number of abortions reached its historical maximum with a figure of 118,611, an increase compared to 2009 - the last year in which abortion was not legal - where an approximate of 111,482 interruptions were reported. However, after 2011 the figures fell again, in 2016 it would have its historical minimum with 93,131 according to data from the Ministry of Health reviewed by RTVE.

According to Chequeado, other countries such as Italy and France experienced a similar situation when they approved the right to abortion between the 80s and 90s, where interventions for pregnancy increased in the first years and then decreased until they stabilized. The same in Portugal, a country that currently has one of the lowest abortion rates in the world with 7.3 per 1000 women of reproductive age.

However, the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) emphasizes that there is still no direct link between the legalization of abortion and the reduction of interventions, since the approval of this law must be complemented by a social plan that promotes knowledge about sex education and contraceptive methods, as well as accessible medical follow-up for all pregnant women. For this reason, developed countries have shown a general decrease in abortion rates, unlike undeveloped countries according to a study conducted between 1990 and 2014 published in the medical journal The Lancet.


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