A new report finds that high levels of unintended pregnancy in Mexico result in elevated abortion rates, with 54% of all unintended pregnancies ending in induced abortion. This translates to an estimated one million abortions taking place in the country each year. As abortion is highly restricted throughout Mexico—with the exception of the Federal District of Mexico City—most of these procedures are done clandestinely, putting women’s health at risk.
According to the study, Unintended Pregnancy and Induced Abortion in Mexico: Causes and Consequences, by Fátima Juárez, of El Colegio de México, and Susheela Singh, of the Guttmacher Institute, et al., Mexico’s high abortion rate (38 per 1,000 women of reproductive age) indicates that family planning programs are not keeping pace with women’s desire to limit and space their births. Approximately four million Mexican women, both married and unmarried, are at risk for unintended pregnancy—that is, they are sexually active and want to avoid pregnancy, but are not using a modern contraceptive method.
"Unsafe abortion remains a serious public health issue, one that is clearly linked to high rates of unintended pregnancy. Helping women prevent unintended pregnancies is critical if we are to reduce abortion rates," said Dr. Juárez, the report’s lead author. "Family planning programs must be improved to ensure that women—and young women in particular—can easily access counseling and the range of contraceptive options they need."
Approximately 12% of married women who want to avoid pregnancy (about two million women) are not using any method of contraception. Young women have a particularly difficult time accessing family planning services; about 27% of both married and unmarried sexually active women aged 15–24 are not using a contraceptive method, which puts them at high risk of unintended pregnancy and is likely linked to their much higher than average abortion rate. Abortion rates are highest among adolescents aged 15–19 (44 per 1,000) and young women aged 20–24 (55 per 1,000). In Tabasco, the Federal District, Mexico State, and Baja California Sur, the abortion rates for women aged 20–24 are particularly high, at least 80 per 1,000.
Almost no complications result from legal abortions carried out in the Federal District of Mexico City. In sharp contrast, the study found that more than one-third of all women having a clandestine abortion (36%) experience complications that need medical treatment from a health facility, but an estimated 25% of them do not receive the care they need. Rural poor women are the least likely to receive the required treatment.
"A number of steps are needed at the national and state levels to reduce unplanned pregnancies and unsafe abortion," said Dr. Juárez. "We hope national and state ministries of health, which are responsible for allocating funds and providing care, can use these findings to inform needed improvements in contraceptive and postabortion care throughout the country."
This news release is also available in Spanish.
Click on the links below for additional information:
English: Facts on Unintended Pregnancy and Induced Abortion in Mexico
Spanish: Datos sobre el embarazo no deseado y aborto inducido en Mexico
Facts on Abortion in Latin America and the Caribbean