Rates of Abortion
The United States has one of the highest abortion rates in the developed world. Each year, 21 out of every 1,000 women of reproductive age have an abortion (Guttmacher Institute, 2012a). In contrast, abortion rates in western Europe of 12 per 1,000 women are the lowest in the world. Differences in many social policies contribute to the lower abortion rates in other developed countries, including comprehensive sex education in schools and easy access to inexpensive or free birth control and emergency contraceptives. In addition, these countries assist mothers by providing maternity leave, health care, education and training, an adequate minimum wage, and other social services. In contrast, from 2001 to 2009 the Bush administration strongly opposed and restricted funding for these policies despite the fact that they result in lower abortion rates. However, to the extent possible given Republican opposition, the Obama administration reestablished these kinds of programs that have helped reduce abortion rates in other developed nations (Bendavid et al., 2011).
Worldwide, about one in five pregnancies ends in abortion (Guttmacher Institute, 2012a). The very highest abortion rates are in countries that severely restrict abortion but do not provide the social services, sex education, and access to contraception that Western European governments do. For example, each year, 56 out of 1,000 women in Peru have abortions, compared to 8 out of 1,000 in the Netherlands (Boonstra et al., 2006). In the developing world, abortion rates are lowest in subregions where contraceptive use is high (Barot, 2011).