Worldwide, nearly 80 million unintended pregnancies occur each year, with over
half of them ending in abortion—even in countries where the procedure is
illegal. These unintended pregnancies—and resulting abortions—could be prevented
if women had access to the reproductive services and supplies, including condoms
and emergency contraception, they want and need to determine if and when to
conceive a child. The global community must fund reproductive health programs
worldwide—these supplies, services and education are crucial to improving and
saving lives that might otherwise be lost to maternal mortality and unsafe
In Uganda an estimated 775,000 unintended pregnancies a year
result in at least 297,000 abortions. This is despite the fact that abortion is
illegal, except to save a woman’s life. Shockingly, a recent study reports that one-third of Ugandan women of
reproductive age want to stop or delay pregnancy but don’t use modern
contraceptives. It is tragic that the lives of these women are put at risk
because they lack access to the reproductive health supplies and services that
are taken for granted in other parts of the world.
Uganda is just one of many countries where women lack the knowledge or
supplies necessary to make their own decisions about if and when to have a
child. Over 200 million women worldwide want to avoid pregnancy, but are not
using any form of modern contraception. Family planning programs providing
access to modern contraceptives, disease screening and prenatal care have led to
declines in maternal mortality resulting from unsafe abortion and complications
from high-risk pregnancies.
But many of these programs are at risk—funding shortages, burdensome policies and the heavy and still growing number of
those suffering from HIV/AIDS and other diseases have made it increasingly
difficult for family planning and reproductive health programs to adequately
serve the women and men they are trying to reach.
Making abortion illegal doesn’t prevent abortion from
happening—but we can all agree that averting unintended pregnancy does. The good
news is that increased use of contraception has been accompanied by significant
declines in abortion rates in a number of countries, including Bangladesh,
Bulgaria, Russia and Chile. Expanding access to voluntary family planning
programs is a key—and proven—way to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies
and, consequently, to reduce the incidence of abortion.