Teens and Abortion
Each year in the United States, 1 million teenagers become pregnant, and 85% of these pregnancies are unintended (Alan Guttmacher Institute, 1999c). Many states have passed laws that control teenagers’ access to abortion. For instance, some states require parental notification or parental consent. However, studies have shown that in states without mandatory parental consent or notice requirements, 75% of minors involve one or both parents (Henshaw & Kost, 1992). Those who do not usually have strong reasons for not doing so, and these laws make it difficult for many of them to obtain an abortion. Some states offer a judicial bypass option, in which a minor can obtain consent from a judge rather than from her parents.
Cross-Cultural Aspects of Abortion
Close to 4 of every 10 pregnancies throughout the world are unplanned, and 2 in 10 are terminated by abortion (Alan Guttmacher Institute, 1999b). The lowest abortion rates are in Spain, Ireland, Netherlands, and Belgium, whereas the highest rates in the world are in Romania, Cuba, Vietnam, and India (see Figure 13.11). Some countries do not have reliable reporting of abortion rates, and unofficial estimates are compiled. This is the case in India, where unofficial estimates put the annual number of abortions at over 6 million (Ertelt, 2004). Abortion is often used as a contraceptive method in India. In Russia, the average woman undergoes 4 or 5 abortions in her lifetime (Kon, 2004).
Whether or not a woman will have an abortion depends on whether her country’s laws permit or prohibit the procedure. It is estimated that 25% of women live in countries with significant abortion restrictions (see Figure 13.12). Only a handful of countries, including Canada, Cuba, Puerto Rico, China, Singapore, Vietnam, South Africa, and many of the Scandinavian countries, permit abortion without restriction (Rahman, Katzive, & Henshaw, 1998). However, many other countries impose restrictions such as allowing abortion only to save a woman’s life (including countries such as Brazil, Mexico, Egypt, Iran, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Ireland, and many areas within sub-Saharan Africa).
Netherlands Germany Tunisia Italy France Japan Israel Canada England & Wales Singapore Denmark Sweden South Korea Czech Republic Georgia Australia United States Egypt Turkey Philippines Mexico Nigeria China Bangladesh Colombia Brazil Chile Yugoslavia Peru Ukraine Russian Federation Romania Vietnam
Official statistics; Q Estimates; no official reporting incomplete statistics collected
In countries where abortion laws are severely restrictive, some countries allow abortions in cases of rape (such as Brazil and Mexico). A few countries require permission of other family members, such as in Turkey, where a woman cannot have an abortion without the consent of her husband. Still other countries prohibit abortion altogether, even to save a woman’s life, although legal appeals to save a woman’s life may be successful in many of these countries (Rahman, Katzive, & Henshaw, 1998).
Medical abortion has been widely used outside the United States. In fact, Mifepristone has been used for over a decade in France, Great Britain, and Sweden (Jones & Henshaw, 2002). In Germany, women using medical abortion report satisfac-
Only to save a woman’s life or not permitted on any grounds
To protect a woman’s life or physical health
All of the above plus to protect mental health
All of the above plus socioeconomic grounds
I I Without restriction as to reason
Grounds on which abortion is legal worldwide. It was projected that there will be 1.38 billion women between the ages of 15 and 24 in 1999.
Source: From Sharing Responsibility: Women, Society and Abortion Worldwide, New York, 1999, p. 28. Reproduced with permission of The Alan Guttmacher Institute.
tion and lower levels of initial anxiety than those using surgical abortion (Hemmerling, Siedentopf, & Kentenich, 2005).
Although many safe and legal abortions occur, approximately 20 million unsafe abortions take place each year (K. Singh & Ratnam, 1998). Unsafe abortion methods include taking drugs, inserting objects into the vagina, flushing the vagina with certain liquids, or having the abdomen vigorously massaged (Tietze & Henshaw, 1986). Deaths from unsafe abortion practices are highest in Africa, where there are 680 deaths per
100,0 abortions (Alan Guttmacher Institute, 1999d).
Abortion remains a controversial procedure in the United States as well as in the rest of the world. Both sides of the issue battle from what they believe are basic principles: one side from a fetus’s right to be born, the other from a woman’s right to control her own body. The pendulum of this debate continues to swing back and forth. For example, in the early 1970s, the right-to-choose group won an important victory with Roe v. Wade; in the early 1990s, the right-to-life group scored a victory with the decision that a state can limit access to abortion.
Current politics may influence whether Roe v. Wade is one day overturned. Although new developments like medical abortion may take the fight out of the abortion clinics and into women’s homes, the only real certainty about the future of abortion is that it will remain one of the most controversial areas of American public life.