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Declining Illegal Abortion Rates in Chile Despite Restrictions

Update Date: Nov 08, 2014 08:38 PM EST

It is reasonable to assume that laws restricting abortion would increase illegal abortions and mortality rates but figures from Chile have shown just the contrary.

According to statistics published in the journal of the Chilean Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology, abortion related mortality, and hospital discharges following abortion have significantly decreased in the last decade by 2 percent every year. Further corroborating the argument that despite a restrictive regime on abortion maternal indicators improved, the number of hospital discharges following ectopic pregnancies and spontaneous abortions remained constant.

An estimated 13,000 to 18,000 illegal abortions take place in Chile every year with a death risk of 1 in 4 million in women of fertile age. Self-administration of misoprostol, accounting for 16 percent of hospital discharges due to abortion.

"The Chilean experience represents a paradox in our times: even under a less permissive abortion legislation, maternal health indicators can be significantly improved by other factors, including a noteworthy reduction in mortality and morbidity associated to abortion," researchers wrote.

"Women at high risk of abortion display a vulnerability profile marked by coercion and fear, which together account for nearly 70% of the reasons for declaring the intention to terminate the pregnancy. Moreover, data suggest that support programs directed to vulnerable women can prevent most illegal abortions, with an outcome of live birth (with or without adoption) ranging between 69% and 94% depending on the risk group," they further said in a press release.

The improvements were attributed to support programes for vulnerable women, improvement in women's education and improved family planning programmes, researchers said.

The findings were published by Chilean epidemiologist Elard Koch, Director of Research of the MELISA Institute

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