Which Countries Have the Highest Abortion Rates?

Abortion is a relatively common medical procedure, but most of us are probably unaware of how many women have abortions around the world. The abortion rates in different regions might be higher or lower than you expect.

What is the Abortion Rate?

The abortion rate is a statistic that is often used to describe the number of terminations that are taking place in comparison to the population. The abortion rate is calculated as the number of abortions taking place each year per 1000 women of childbearing age (usually taken as 16-45) in the population. So, and abortion rate of 20 would mean that there are 20 abortions each year for every 1000 women in this age range.

The abortion rate is useful because it allows us to see how things change over time or to compare the number of abortions that are happening in countries with very different population sizes. The highest abortion rates aren’t always in the countries that you might expect. For example, abortion rates can be very high in the more socially conservative countries, because it is more difficult for women to keep their babies if being a single mother is still seen as socially unacceptable. The abortion rate can also be very high in countries with strict abortion laws, because women will still seek out unsafe and illegal abortions if they feel unable to continue with the pregnancy.

Countries with the Highest Abortion Rates

Countries in Eastern Europe have some of the highest abortion rates in the world, despite often being perceived as a more socially conservative and traditional region in Europe. However, the abortion rate in Eastern Europe has been declining rapidly in recent years. It was around 88 per 1000 in the early 1990s.

The highest abortion rates in the world are found in the following regions:

  • 43 per 1000 in Eastern Europe (including Bulgaria, Poland, Russian Federation, Czech Republic)
  • 39 per 1000 in the Caribbean (including Barbados, Jamaica, Montserrat, Anguilla, British Virgin Islands)
  • 38 per 1000 in Eastern Africa (including Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique)
  • 36 per 1000 in South-eastern Asia (including Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, Indonesia)
  • 36 per 1000 in Middle Africa (including Gabon, Cameroon, Chad, Congo)

Countries with the Lowest Abortion Rates

Countries in Western Europe have some of the lowest abortion rates in the world, despite providing women with some of the best access to abortion care. Women in these countries are also well educated, empowered and have good access to sex education and contraception.

Some of the lowest abortion rates are found in the following regions:

  • 12 per 1000 in Western Europe (including France, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Netherlands, Switzerland)
  • 15 per 1000 in Southern Africa (including South Africa, Botswana, Namibia)
  • 17 per 1000 in Northern Europe (including Scandinavia and the UK)
  • 17 per 1000 in Oceania (including Australia and New Zealand)

Abortion Rate in the UK

The abortion rate in the UK is 16.7 per 1000. Women in the UK have access to excellent healthcare services, including contraception advice and abortion care, through both the NHS and private clinics like 132 Healthwise. Women can get the support they need to manage their own fertility and cope with unplanned pregnancies. The abortion rate is higher than in some other countries in Western Europe, but it is still much lower than in other parts of the world, largely thanks to contraception.

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