Chart of the Day: Global Abortion Rates

To mark the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade this week, the Guttmacher Institute has released some insightful data visualizations on abortion rates around the world. Turns out, the countries with the more liberal abortion laws actually have fewer abortions:


Guttmacher reports that the rates were high—between 29 and 32 abortions per 1,000 women of childbearing age—in countries in Africa and Latin America, where most abortions are illegal. But the rate was much lower in Western Europe, where it’s generally legal, averaging 12 per 1,000. The most likely reason for this, of course, is that countries that have legalized abortion are also more likely to have women who are A) more educated about and have access to various types of contraception and B) are empowered to use it. The takeaway is that draconian restrictions on abortion don’t actually ensure that there are fewer abortions—just that the ones that do take place are less safe.

And while we’re on the subject, read our 2004 piece on life before Roe, The Way It Was.”


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  • Kate Sheppard was a staff reporter in Mother Jones' Washington bureau from 2009 to 2013. She is now a senior reporter and the energy and environment editor at The Huffington Post. She can be reached by email at kate (dot) sheppard (at) huffingtonpost (dot) com and you can follow her on Twitter @kate_sheppard.