Almost every second pregnancy worldwide is unintended, says UN

In a report released on Wednesday, the United Nations Population Fund warns of this global health emergency: Every year there are 121 million unwanted pregnancies and in about 60% of the cases it results in medical abortion or not.

A pregnant woman hospitalized in Sierra Leone in 2016
A pregnant woman hospitalized in Sierra Leone in 2016 © AFP / MARCO LONGARI

This is an “alarming” situation lamented by UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund : Worldwide, every second woman becomes pregnant unintentionally. This is a fundamental right that has been enshrined in several international agreements since 1979. Direct consequence: more than half of these pregnancies end in abortion. This emerges from the report published on Wednesday by this organization dependent on the UN, whichneglected crisis of unwanted pregnancy“.

A choice that is not a choice

That is an extremely high number: 50% of pregnancies worldwide are not the result of a conscious decision by women and girls 121 million unwanted pregnancies per year. A number that is all the more shocking when, as UNFPA reminds us, “Nothing is more fundamental than the ability to decide whether or not you want to father a child. But for far too many people, this life-changing decision isn’t really a choice.“.

It reveals deep shortcomings in terms of rights, justice, gender equality, human dignity and general social well-being.

And without concrete mobilization, this number will inevitably increase as the world population increases, and the situation will be worsened by the various health and environmental situations that we will have to face in the future: “Providing the sexual and reproductive health services that people and communities need becomes even more difficult in the face of profound upheavals caused by climate change, conflict, public health emergencies and mass migration.

Different origins

Several factors lead to this state of erosion of free will: economic, geographic and health barriers (difficulties in accessing sex education, information, contraception or health services, etc.), cultural barriers (patriarchy, religion, etc.), but also crisis situations and various wars that can lead to acts of sexual violence and coercion. For example, according to the report in 64 countries “23% of married women of childbearing age cannot refuse sex. (…) Only 57% of women are therefore able to enforce their decisions regarding their health and their sexual and reproductive rights.

In Sierra Leone, for example, UNFPA notes, young girls are particularly affected: “The country’s teenage pregnancy and maternal mortality rates are among the highest in the world. Pervasive sexual violence is directed primarily against children and has terrible consequences. The most vulnerable young girls are likely to be attacked or accosted by boys and older men when fetching water, selling goods or even going to school.

It is too early to comment on the situation in Ukraine, but it is evident that the Russian invasion, with the bombing of hospitals, the deterioration of hospital services, the displacement of the population and possible abuses witnessed in all wars, Consequences for the rights of Ukrainians will have women whether they want to get pregnant or not.

contraception and abortion

It is imperative for the UN to act on access to contraception.According to global estimates, 257 million women trying to avoid pregnancy are not using modern and safe birth control methods, and of those 172 million are not using birth control at all.“, we can read in the report. In the world there are many contraceptives, modern and safe, but not always accessible to everyone. A situation that does not refer to “Lack of information about the different contraceptive methods and limited access to them“but to”Concerns about side effects, persistent myths, stigma and opposition from those around you“.

One of the direct consequences of unwanted pregnancies is resorting to abortion. More than 60% of these situations result in an abortionwhether medicalized or not, legal or illegal“However, the rate of unsafe abortions reaches nearly 45% and 7 million women end up in hospital because of these practices, making it a”Public Health Emergency” for UNFPA.

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