Adolescents in Developing Countries Face Barriers to Accessing Safe Abortion Services
The Guttmacher Institute has released a new fact sheet entitled "Adolescents’ Need for and Use of Abortion Services in Developing Countries", which synthesizes available data into one easy-to-use resource. In 2008 (the most recent year for which estimates are available), about 3.2 million adolescent women aged 15–19 in developing countries had unsafe abortions, an annual rate of 16 per 1,000 women. Guttmacher researchers expect to publish an updated estimate, along with additional data on adolescent abortion in the developing world, later in 2016.
The new fact sheet incorporates data from three recent studies of adolescent sexual and reproductive health needs and services in developing countries. It includes information about unsafe abortion incidence in specific countries and in the developing world in general, abortion service provision, access to postabortion care and barriers that adolescents face in accessing safe abortion services. The data show that adolescents are more likely than older women to self-induce abortion or go to an untrained provider, and they are more likely to have abortions later in pregnancy. Adolescents are also less likely than older women to start using contraceptives following postabortion care, which increases their likelihood of experiencing future unplanned pregnancies.
Cost and confidentiality are the biggest barriers adolescents in developing countries face in obtaining safe abortion services. To encourage adolescents to seek out safe and legal abortions and postabortion care, it is critical to offer these services at an affordable cost or free of charge, and to involve other parties (including parents, guardians and spouses) only with the patient’s consent. Contraceptive counseling and method provision should also be included as part of comprehensive postabortion services. Policymakers and health care providers in developing countries should make it a priority to provide adolescents with complete, medically accurate information about sex and pregnancy and access to confidential, youth-friendly services to minimize unplanned pregnancies and abortions.