Research has shown that banning or severely restricting abortion does not reduce abortion rates, but instead affects the safety of the procedure. In regions where most women live under restrictive abortion laws, the estimated abortion incidence is higher than it is in regions comprising countries with liberal abortion laws. In countries with restrictive laws, not only do some 47 000 women die from unsafe abortions each year, but many others suffer long-term health consequences.These restrictive legal frameworks are driven by moral and religious arguments which makes abortion particularly prone to politicization and ideological branding. This in turn renders decision makers less responsive to public health arguments.Access to safe abortion does not assume central stage in policy goals and interventions aimed to improve maternal and women’s reproductive health, even at the international level and the Millennium Development Goal number 5 to improve maternal mortality. Although de-criminalization of abortion is not a magic bullet, it is an important component in decreasing maternal mortality rates.


Liv Tønnessen

Director of Center on Law and Social Transformation and Senior Researcher